Google announces biometric authentication services on Android with FIDO2

Google has rolled out biometric authentication for some services on Android devices leveraging FIDO2 standards, FIDO CTAP, and WebAuthn, according to a company blog post. A spokesperson for the company told VentureBeat that FIDO2 password-free logins will be implemented with more Google services over time.

The capability is available now on Pixel phones, and will reach all devices using Android 7 or later in the next few days. Android 7.0 and later have been FIDO2-certified out of the box since the FIDO Alliance granted the OS certification in February.

When users visit compatible services like passwords.google.com, a WebAuthn “get” call through Chrome to enable the use of a fingerprint or screen lock pattern for identity verification. Of course, FIDO protocols also allow for multifactor authentication without biometrics.

“Both security keys and local user verification based on biometrics use the FIDO2 standards. However, these two protections address different use cases,” Google explains. “Security keys are used for bootstrapping a new device as a second factor as part of 2SV in order to make sure it’s the right owner of the account accessing it. Local user verification based on biometrics comes after bootstrapping a device and can be used for re-authentication during step-up flows to verify the identity of the already signed-in user.”

The blog post emphasizes that under FIDO architecture, biometric data is not transmitted to or stored by Google servers. The company also provides a link to a presentation at Identiverse last year that outlines some future use cases the company has worked on.

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