Cyber Monday Chromebook deal

Chromebook privacy indicators for mic and camera in the works

While phones these days are really good about telling you when your microphone or camera is in use, Chromebooks aren’t. At least not at the system level even if most apps do. That’s going to change with new Chromebook privacy indicators coming to ChromeOS.

Chrome Story spotted a ChromeOS code change in the works to add this feature. When sharing your screen or when using the microphone or camera, you’ll see Chromebook privacy indicators.

I don’t yet see the experimental flag in the ChromeOS 107 Dev Channel. However, it will be found at chrome://flags#enable-privacy-indicators once the code is pushed out.

There isn’t a screenshot to show what the Chromebook privacy indicators will look like but it sounds similar to how Android’s privacy indicators work.

Users will see “a green icon in the status area as well as add a silent notification to the tray.”

Chromebook privacy indicator for microphone in Linux

Interestingly, the silent notification for a microphone in use has been a staple of Linux on Chromebooks for some time. I would assume the new privacy indicator feature will do the same across all of ChromeOS with this new feature.

As I noted, most apps are pretty good at telling you if your mic or camera is in use. I’d say all of them are if that app is the browser on your Chromebook because you have to allow access to these devices. You always see Chromebook privacy indicators for when the camera is in use, for example.

However, this is really a global feature that applies to the operating system. So I can understand why Google is adding this functionality.

Although there aren’t any further implementation details, I’d expect to see Chromebook privacy indicators enabled by default and possibly without a way to disable it. If it’s an option, it will most likely be in the upcoming Privacy Hub settings and features. That’s where you’ll also find other related features such as snooping detection, which is still a work in progress.

Chromebook privacy

About the author

Kevin C. Tofel has covered technology since 2004. He's used ChromeOS since Google debuted the CR-48 in 2010, reviewing dozens of Chromebooks since then. He worked for Google's Chrome Enterprise team from 2016 to 2017, supporting the launch of Android app support. In his free time, he uses Chromebooks to learn software engineering at Launch School. In 2019, Kevin joined the CS Curriculum Committee at his local community college.

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