It’s not hard to imagine hackers or malicious software taking control of your smartphone to take videos, capture photographs, or listen in on conversations. However, fewer people will be concerned about this because Android 12 has a new privacy function that visually alerts you of potential intrusive surveillance.
In this guide, we’ll show you how to take advantage of this privacy function on Android 12 smartphones, and identify which apps are spying on you, as well as how to prevent their spying activities.
How Can I Tell If Any Apps Are Spying on Me?
These days, almost every device has a permissions manager, but they mainly serve to restrict access to device functionalities and block or terminate potentially harmful apps before it’s too late. However, what happens if you don’t check an app, or if it somehow finds a way to bypass your restrictions?
With the introduction of colored indicators in iOS 14, Apple intended to address this security issue. Whether intentionally or maliciously engaged, these visual alerts always indicate when the microphone is listening or the camera is open. Similar functionality is present in Android 12, which indicates that spyware’s days of going unnoticed are over.
All OEMs using Android 12 on their devices must use these privacy indicators. On the Samsung Galaxy model and Google Pixel smartphones, we’ll go over how to use these indicators, although other OEMs may implement some of the options differently.
Use the Camera/Mic Privacy Identifiers
A green bubble with a microphone or camera icon will typically appear in your status bar whenever one of your Android 12 apps use your camera or microphone. Before the green dot minimzes in the screen corner, you’ll see it for only a split second.
The green bubble and dot will be visible even if you run other apps over the one that is accessing your camera or microphone data. No matter what kind of smartphone you are using, Android 12 requires that.
By swiping your notifications open, you reveal the green icon once more. When you tap the icon, a dialog box appears identifying exactly which app is listening in or recording video. Tapping that alert opens the program’s permissions. These are just more criteria for OEMs for Android 12, so you can take advantage of them to identify spying activities.
Use the Privacy Dashboard Settings
A privacy dashboard is also part of Android 12’s features and allows users to view whether apps have recently accessed private data or device functionalities. On a Google Pixel device, go to Settings -> Privacy -> Privacy dashboard to access the dashboard. For other OEMs, it might be located somewhere else. For instance, on a Samsung Galaxy device, simply select Settings -> Privacy.
The chart and/or list will show anything used the previous day. Selecting the option to “See additional permissions” or “All permissions” for Galaxy models adds the other features to the list.
When you choose a recently used item, a timeline of all the programs that accessed it appears, letting you know exactly when each incident took place.
On a Galaxy model, tapping an app name in the timeline will open that app’s permissions (or provide a link to open all of the app’s permissions) for you. The “Manage permission” button at the bottom (or “See all applications with this permission” for Galaxy models) allows you to view all the apps that are permitted and prohibited from accessing the item, in this case, either the microphone or camera.
On a Google Pixel device, if you choose a feature from the main privacy dashboard page that hasn’t been used in the last 24 hours, it will also list all the apps that are and aren’t permitted access to it. On a Galaxy model, though, you should see the timeline.
If you want to see all of the background apps in the list, hit the vertical ellipse at the top and choose “Show system” or “Show system apps” from any page in the privacy dashboard. Although it’s unlikely, a malicious program could sneak into your device and run as a system app.
How to Disable Camera and Microphone Access To Prevent Spying
There are different ways to check or remove an app’s permissions, as we’ve already mentioned. Here are just a few possibilities on a Google Pixel model running stock Android 12. Note that it can be different on devices made by other OEMs.
Follow these steps:
- Go to [App Name] -> Camera or Microphone -> Don’t Allow or Ask Every Time after tapping the privacy indicator.
- If they have been used within the previous 24 hours, select “Camera” or “Microphone” from the privacy dashboard, then select [App’s Name] -> Camera or Microphone -> Don’t Allow or Ask every time.
- From the privacy dashboard, select “See other permissions,” then select “Camera or Microphone — [App’s Name] -> Don’t Allow.”
- Go to [App’s Name] -> Permissions -> Camera or Microphone -> Don’t Allow or Ask every time after selecting “Apps” from Settings.
- On the main screen or app drawer, long-press the desired app, then select App info > Permissions > Camera or Microphone > Don’t Allow or Ask Every Time.
To temporarily stop all apps from using your camera or microphone:
- Go to Settings -> Privacy to disable “Microphone access” or “Camera access.”.
- Drag and drop “Microphone” or “Camera” from the bottom area to the top of your Quick Settings after opening them, using the pencil icon to alter the layout. From this point forward, you can prevent access by opening your Quick Settings and then selecting “Camera” or “Microphone.”
In summary, you can guarantee increased protection from spying apps on your Android smartphone by taking advantage of the security feature included in Android 12 devices. The instructions we’ve provided in this guide will help you achieve this easily, so make sure to follow them correctly.