Google is working on an Android P feature that will prevent idle apps from accessing a user’s smartphone or tablet camera to capture images or video without their knowledge.
According to an Android P source code commit spotted by XDA-Developers, the next major release of Google’s mobile operating system — which the search giant will likely detail at its I/O developer conference in May — will block the camera from accessing idle apps.
Android engineers explicitly mention in the source code commit that they’re adding this feature to “protect user privacy”.
This is the first time Google has taken a measure like this to protect users’ privacy from idle apps.
While it’s hard to say just how frequently apps are able to use a device’s camera to capture photos and videos without the user’s knowledge, it’s clearly a concern that has made its way into the popular imagination thanks to shows like Black Mirror.
Even powerful tech CEOs like Mark Zuckerberg are known to cover their laptop’s camera. Whether this feature will do enough to assuage those fears remains to be seen, but it’s certainly a step in the right direction.