Android 12 has an easy way to tell if an app is accessing your phone camera or mic


    Use Android 12’s new privacy dashboard and settings to control what information your apps can access. 


    Android 12 is now available on Pixel phones, including the new Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro, and it’ll be rolling out to other compatible Android devices soon. The update was announced at the October Pixel event and comes with a few popular features, like scrollable screenshots and Quick Tap.

    Some of the new OS’s most exciting features are its privacy upgrades. (Google also gave Android 12 some cool hidden features.) They’re designed to give you more control over how much private information the apps on your phone can access. Now Android users can access a privacy dashboard that lets them manage their permissions and location. The October Android update also lets you disable your microphone and camera on all apps (more below). 


    Brett Pearce/CNET

    Here’s how to see exactly which apps can access specific information about you, and how to revoke any permissions you aren’t comfortable with. And we’ll show you how to access your new privacy dashboard to better control what your apps can see about you.

    How to tell if your phone’s camera or mic is in use

    Android 12 adds a new indicator to the top menu bar that appears when either your camera or microphone is being accessed. When the indicator appears, you can swipe down from the top of the screen to view your quick-settings panel and turn access off (more on that below). 

    The new Privacy Dashboard provides a timeline of which apps have accessed your phone and mic (or your location, or other sensitive pieces of information) and when. To get to the Privacy Dashboard, go to Settings > Privacy > Privacy Dashboard.

    Manage your location and permissions for Android apps

    1. Open the Privacy Dashboard.

    2. From the main page, you can navigate to different permissions to see which apps accessed that information in the last 24 hours. These include location, camera, microphone and contacts.

    3. Tap the permission you want to view. You’ll see a timeline of which apps accessed that information and when. 

    4. Tap Manage permission at the bottom of the screen. This will let you change what that app can access. (You can also do this directly from each app.) 

    You’ll also find the ability to turn on approximate location instead of precise location, so apps that don’t need to know exactly where you are (such as weather apps) won’t get that level of detail. 

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    Easily turn off your microphone and camera access across all apps

    Another new Android 12 feature gives you more control over use of your phone’s microphone and camera. Here’s how to turn them on and off across your entire phone:

    1. Open your Quick Settings bar. 

    2. Toggle the Microphone or Camera setting on or off. 

    Note that this will turn it off for the entire system, so even if you’ve given an app permission to access the microphone or camera in the past, this will override that permission. However, the app itself won’t know you’ve turned it off — it will just see a blank feed. If you toggle either your camera or microphone off, the Android system will remind you when you’ve opened an app that needs them. 

    For more, check out the best new Android 12 features and everything else announced at Google I/O

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