Staying on top of our privacy in a digital environment has become a foremost concern for most of us in recent years. Although the presence of a camera and microphone in our systems has certainly made it easy to connect with people, it has also become a perfect opportunity to spy on us. And that’s not paranoia speaking.
The same goes for our location. Sharing our location makes it easy to get localized content. But some companies are known to sell our personal data. “After all, some services are only free because you are the commodity.” In the end, it all comes down to trust.
It can be very disconcerting not knowing which apps might be using our microphones, camera, or location. It’s even more unnerving when an app has no business accessing these in the first place. Everyone must remember the Instagram debacle last year when the camera indicator lit up on iPhones when users were scrolling through their Instagram feeds. Although Instagram chalked it to a bug, the truth is, we’ll never really know the truth. And if there wasn’t an indicator in the first place, we would have been none the wiser even if they were really spying.
The moral of the story: to prevent an app from violating our privacy, the first step would be to know that they are doing so. Windows 11 makes it really easy to do exactly that with a microphone, location, and possibly a camera indicator.
What Indicators Does Windows 11 Have?
Whenever an app is accessing your microphone or location, an indicator in the notification center of the taskbar will pop up. There’s no guesswork involved here.
So, if an app is accessing your microphone, an icon for the microphone will appear on the taskbar.
A location icon (hollow arrow) will appear in the taskbar whenever an app is using your location.
When both are in use simultaneously, an icon with both microphone and location icon clubbed together will appear on the taskbar.
For the camera, most systems have an LED indicator these days. So, if an app is accessing your webcam, it will light up.
Chances are that Windows 11 might also have an indicator for it in the notification area similar to the microphone and location. If your system does not have an LED indicator, you get a notification to indicate the status of the camera. The future builds of Windows 11 might replace it with the taskbar indicator, but these are all just speculations at this point.
Finding the Apps that are using Microphone, Camera or Location
To know which app is accessing your mic, go to the taskbar and hover over the icon. A notification banner will appear that’ll show the app currently using the microphone. The key here is to hover. If you instead click the icon with the left mouse button, nothing will happen.
Likewise, for location, go to the location icon in the notification area of the taskbar and hover over it. A banner will appear showing the app currently using your location.
When both are in use, the icon for both will appear clubbed together. Hovering on it will display the app using both the microphone and location separately.
You can also see the apps currently using your location, camera, or microphone from privacy settings.
To open Privacy settings, right-click the microphone or location icon from the taskbar. Then click the ‘Microphone Privacy settings’ or ‘Location Privacy settings’ option.
You can also access them from the settings app. Either open the settings app from the Start menu or by using the keyboard shortcut Windows + i. Go to ‘Privacy & security’ from the navigation pane on the left.
Scroll down to ‘App Permissions’. There, you’ll find the options for ‘Location’, ‘Camera’, and ‘Microphone’. Click the one you want to view.
If an app is currently using your location, you’ll see the message “Currently in use” under the app in location settings.
You can also see ‘Last Accessed’ with the date and time stamp under the apps that have accessed your location recently.
The same goes for the Camera and Microphone as well. The only difference is that the apps are divided into system and desktop apps for these. But that won’t make any difference. If an app is currently using them, the message “Currently in use” will appear underneath the app in their respective settings.
Otherwise, you can see ‘Last Accessed’ under the apps that recently used the camera and microphone. The Last Accessed goes back a few months even.
The first step for staying on top of our privacy is knowing when an app or website is abusing it. Windows 11 makes it really easy to do that with privacy indicators.