Digital privacy is of utmost importance to all of us, but it sometimes tends to take a backseat in this ever connected world of gadgets, apps, and online services. Fantastic tools as they are, webcams can be misused by malicious apps for spying and gathering data without your consent. In this post, we will cover some steps to restrict webcam usage in Windows PCs to their intended purpose. Do check a similar post we published earlier for Android devices.
Watch that light
Most webcams, whether built into laptops or available as USB connectors for desktops, have an indicator light that turns on when they’re in use. This is not 100% foolproof, but it’s still a huge advantage that PC webcams have over smartphone cameras, which often have no physical indicator when they’re on.
All you have to do is keep a side-eye on the webcam light. They are not easy to miss. If the light turns on when you’re not using any apps that should access the webcam, you will know something’s up and can put your investigative glasses on.
Check camera permissions for installed apps
In Windows 11, go to Settings > Privacy & security, scroll down to App permissions > Camera. Here you can disable camera access for all apps or for individual modern apps. You can also revoke access for all legacy desktop (Win32) apps.
The steps are similar in Windows 10 (Settings > Privacy > App permissions > Camera), however there’s no such feature in older versions of Windows.
Check camera permissions for websites
Open your web browser and check which sites have access to your webcam and remove any that shouldn’t have it. We have provided steps for Chrome, Firefox, and Edge below.
Chrome: Go to Settings > Security and Privacy > Site Settings > Permissions > Camera. Remove any sites that are allowed to access to the webcam.
Firefox: Open Settings > Privacy & Security > Permissions > Camera > Settings. Remove any sites if applicable.
Edge: Go to Settings > Cookies and site permissions > All Permissions > Camera, and remove any sites from the allow list.
Put a tape on it
Physical barriers are often the best options when it comes to maintaining digital privacy. Many laptop models these days ship with a hardware shutter than slides over the webcam lens. If you’re in the market for a new laptop, you might want to look out for such models. A simpler solution for the rest of us is to slap a sticky note or tape over the camera and close the laptop lid when it’s not in use.
Updates and anti-malware
This is more of a generic tip for all things related to digital security and privacy. Keep Windows updated with latest security patches. Install updates for apps when available. Use a good anti-malware and occasionally scan your system for anything that might have slipped in (Windows Security, also known as Windows Defender which ships with Windows 8/10/11, is plenty good).
What are your favorite privacy and security tips regarding Windows PCs? Let us know in the comments.