Last month an experimental flag was spotted in the Chromium Gerrit repository, which pointed at biometric authentication coming to desktops. This flag was described as being another option for authenticating when viewing saved passwords, not as a replacement. Currently, you are prompted to re-authenticate when trying to view a saved password by entering your computer password on Windows and Mac. In contrast, the authentication method on ChromeOS is via your Google password. The proposed changes would allow you to use biometrics in devices with the necessary hardware, much as you can currently do on mobile devices like smartphones and tablets.
As a follow-up to this new feature, Google is now adding an option to use biometric authentication when filling out form data, not just when viewing passwords. This will also be optional, with a flag that will add the toggle to your Chrome settings. This was discovered by u/Leopeva64-2, who had been following this new feature as it matured in the repositories.
Enabling this flag and then subsequently toggling on the setting will require anyone on that device to enter some type of authentication before filling out form data. Acceptable biometrics could be a fingerprint, face unlock, or a PIN, depending on the device. In a demo of how the feature currently works in Edge, u/Leopeva64-2 showed this feature works very similar to when you want to view a saved password, with the system prompting for your credentials before proceeding.
Since this feature will not be on by default and, for now, requires a flag, I do not see many users opting in to use it. It is definitely more secure but requires an extra step to fill out your forms if that’s something you do with Chrome’s autofill. However, I see the value of this extra step, as anyone who gains access to your computer could sign up for things you never asked for and not be stopped at any moment. Fortunately, when filling in credit card numbers, the three digits on the back are not automatically filled in, something that sometimes mildly annoys me but that I know is for my own good.
The flag is not currently available on Chrome Stable or Beta yet, so we will have to wait a little longer for the kinks to be worked out before we see a feature launch. However, we will continue to keep an eye on this commit for any new developments.