Choose Privacy Week 2019: Webcam and Smartphone Security for Privacy

Webcam Security for Privacy

We often don’t bother to pay attention to the small, unnoticeable camera that stares back at us every time we open our laptops or smartphone. For many of us, the camera takes a backseat when it comes to more important things like taxes, Netflix, and late night assignments. However, the reason we should start being more aware of this tiny eye we constantly expose ourselves to is because it isn’t that difficult for potential hackers to watch you through your own camera, and they can do so while generally going undetected by disabling the light on the camera.

Though this thought may be unsettling, there are proactive measures that you can take to prevent yourself from being unknowingly spied on.

For Windows 7 Computers:

  1. Go to the Start Menu
  2. Search for “Device Manager”
  3. Select imaging devices, and find the driver that matches your webcam.
  4. Right click the device, and select disable driver.
  5. Select “Yes” when prompted if you want to disable the device’s driver.

For Windows 10 Computers:

  1. Go to the Start Menu
  2. Select the Settings icon
  3. Search for “Camera Privacy Settings”
  4. Edit which apps you want to be able to access your camera, or deselect the option for apps to access your camera at all.

For Mac Computers:

  1. Go to the Apple menu
  2. Select System Preferences
  3. Click Security & Privacy
  4. Select Privacy
  5. Click Camera
  6. Select the check-boxes next to the apps you want to have access to your camera, or deselect all check-boxes if you don’t want any apps to have access to your camera.
  7. Check out Objective-See’s free utility: OverSight. OverSight monitors when your microphone and webcam are being activated and will issue a push notification telling you when they are and what application/process is accessing them.  

The library will have webcam covers available at the front desk in honor of Choose Privacy Week.

Smartphone Security for Privacy

On more than one occasion you have probably given apps like Snapchat, Twitter, or Facebook more information about you than you think. These apps are able to access our camera, microphone, contacts, location, and more. One way we can guarantee apps aren’t wiggling their way into our private life is to analyze the access settings that we give them. Access settings allow you to see and edit what permissions are enabled for each app on your phone.

If you want to change access settings on an Android phone:

  1. Head to the settings menu on your smartphone.  On the screen you should see Apps which is where you want to go.
  2. In apps, there will be three dots in a column in the right-hand corner where you will find App permissions.
  3. App permissions will bring up a list of different options where you can find different apps and turn off whatever they have permission to do.

If you want to change access settings on an iPhone:

  1. Head to privacy in the settings menu.
  2. In privacy, you will be able to see location services which tells you which apps have access to your location. This can be turned off but may affect some apps that use location like ride share services and maps.
  3. If you scroll to the bottom, there’s advertising which allows you to turn on limited tracking by advertisers
  4. Within privacy, you can select apps and disable their access to your information


See all of our posts for Choose Privacy Week 2019.

Up next: Internet Browser Settings for Privacy

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