Your Android phone can tell you if you are being spied on

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Google’s latest operating system, Android 12, has a key feature to ensure that malicious individuals are not accessing the user’s camera and microphone.

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The entire OS update brings with it a whole host of privacy tools like locked folders in Google Photos, a quick delete feature to clear Google Chrome browsing history, and a ‘Privacy Dashboard’.

One of the new additions is an indicator on the top right corner of the screen, at the top of the phone, that brings up a camera or microphone icon if an app has asked to access that hardware.


This update means that hackers or dangerous apps will no longer be able to silently access such personal data – something that users have previously been concerned about.

In July 2020, an Instagram bug activated ‘camera on’ notifications on iPhones when users weren’t taking photos as well as when they were, leading people to think the app was spying on them.

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As well as icons, Android 12 now tracks when and which apps have accessed sensitive information. This includes the camera and microphone, but also locations, calendar, call logs, contacts, files, and more.

Users can find it in the Privacy Dashboard in the Settings app, which shows a list, and a pie chart showing the most sought-after individual hardware or software pieces.

There are also dedicated buttons in the quick setting bar – found by dragging down from the top of the phone – that can completely turn off the microphone and camera for the entire phone.

When opening an app that requires those permissions, while making a call or using the native camera app, Android will notify the user that the restriction has been placed with a button to undo it.

Android 12 is currently available on Google’s Pixel devices, Samsung’s S21 and Note range, and flagships from Oppo and OnePlus.


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