Android 12: If your phone shows a camera or microphone icon someone may be spying on you
The whole OS update has a whole host of privacy tools such as a locked folder in Google Photos, a quick delete feature to clear Google Chrome browsing histories, and a ‘privacy dashboard’.
One of the new additions is an indicator at the top of the phone, in the top right corner of the screen, that brings up a camera or microphone icon if an app has asked to access that hardware.
This update means that hackers or hazardous apps would no longer be able to silently access such personal data – something that users have been worried about in the past.
In July 2020, an Instagram bug activated the ‘camera on’ notification on iPhones when users were not taking photos as well as when they were , leading people to think the app was spying on them.
As well as the icon, Android 12 now tracks when and which apps have accessed sensitive information. This includes the camera and the microphone, but also location, calendar, call logs, contacts, files, and more.
Users can find this in the privacy dashboard in the Settings app, which shows a list, and a pie chart of which piece of personal hardware or software is asked for the most.
There are also dedicated buttons in the quick settings bar – found by pulling down from the top of the phone – that can completely turn off the microphone and camera for the whole phone.
When opening an app that does require those permissions, when making a call or using the native camera app, Android will notify the user that the restriction is place with a button to undo it.
Android 12 is currently available on Google’s Pixel devices, Samsung’s S21 and Note range, and Oppo and OnePlus’s flagships.