If you’ve upgraded your iPhone to iOS 14 already, you may have noticed a little green dot at the top of your screen when using certain apps. It’s a new security feature Apple came up with to help you have peace of mind about your camera privacy.
When you see the little green dot, that means that there’s an app that’s actively using your iPhone’s camera. If you see an orange dot, that means an app is using your microphone.
“An indicator appears at the top of your screen whenever an app is using your microphone or camera,” Apple says. “And in Control Center, you can see if an app has used them recently.”
What this means is that if you see a green dot but aren’t aware of any app needing your camera, there may be an app secretly accessing the camera to spy on you.
Swiping down to open your control center will show you exactly which app was responsible for the camera use.
If you find an app abusing your camera, you can revoke its camera permissions in your Settings app to make sure it doesn’t happen again (assuming you don’t want to delete the app entirely).
This change is part of a push by Apple to give users more confidence about their privacy through transparency. MacBooks have long had a green light next to the webcam that turns on with the camera, and now iPhones have a digital version of that same indicator.
In July of this year, Instagram was found to turn on the iPhone’s “camera on” indicator even when users weren’t taking photos. This week, an Instagram user based in New Jersey filed a lawsuit against Facebook in federal court in San Francisco, accusing Instagram of intentionally and secretly using the camera to collect “lucrative and valuable data on its users that it would not otherwise have access to.”
The complaint says that by “obtaining extremely private and intimate personal data on their users, including in the privacy of their own homes,” Instagram and Facebook collect “valuable insights and market research.”
Facebook has stated that the “camera on” notification was simply a software bug that triggered a false notification when the camera wasn’t actually being accessed or used.
Apple’s new iOS 14 camera notification dot should help ease iPhone users’ fears of this type of privacy issue.