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Google adding fingerprint authentication to Android OS: Report

The days of unlocking your Android device with a PIN code may soon be numbered. According to BuzzFeed News, Google will introduce native fingerprint authentication for its Android M operating system at the company’s annual I/O conference.

The new feature would allow users to log into “supported applications” using a fingerprint instead of a password. Presumably users would also be able to use the same method to unlock a device.

Google’s (GOOG) partners who, up until now, have been left to to do all the heavy lifting will likely welcome dedicated support for fingerprint technology. Instead of creating software in-house, manufacturers could use Google’s platform to implement features that at one time may have been considered too costly or time-consuming.

Fingerprint-based technology for smartphones is slowly becoming a must-have feature. Apple and Samsung both offer fingerprint capabilities for various products, including the iPhone 6 and Galaxy S6.

Security is often touted as the main reason for implementing the technology, but it’s hard to ignore the convenience aspect. Placing your finger on a dedicated sensor to unlock an application or device is much faster than having to remember and manage complicated passwords; assuming you use one.

BuzzFeed’s report doesn’t detail how Google plans on securing its data, but it’s something to be conscious of as fingerprint sensors become more and more common. Consumers should be conscious about whether a photo of the fingerprint is stored on the device, or if it’s converted into some form of encrypted data. Also key is whether the information is backed up or stored in the cloud at any point in time and what apps, if any, have direct access to the data.

Ideally, Google would implement a system similar to one used by Apple (AAPL) where a “mathematical representation of your fingerprint” is stored on secure chips that are off-limits to apps and the operating system.

Samsung (SSNLF) also has a similar security setup to Apple’s, although researchers recently announced they discovered of a method for intercepting fingerprint data as it’s being passed from the reader to the secure zone on older Galaxy S5 phones. A scary thought, especially when you consider mobile payment systems are relying on fingerprint data as the main authentication method when transmitting payment data.

Google I/O kicks off on Thursday, May 28 where we can expect more details surrounding Android M and the rumored fingerprint capabilities.