iphone green dot

If Your iPhone Has a Green Dot in iOS 14, Your Camera May Be Spying On You

In September 2020 Apple released the iOS 14 [1]. This new phone comes with several new upgrades, including new privacy features. This new function comes in the form of the iPhone green dot at the top of your screen. When that light comes on, it means the app you’re using is accessing your camera.

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The iPhone Green Dot

If you’ve been a Mac user for a while, you are probably familiar with the green light next to the webcam that turns on with the camera. With the new iOS 14, Apple is taking that feature and putting it into your phone.

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When you see a green light at the top of your screen, it means an app is actively using your camera. If you see an orange light, it means an app is using your microphone. The purpose of this feature is to protect user privacy. If you see a green dot but aren’t aware of any app needing access to your camera, the app may be using the camera to spy on you.

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“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.” [2]

What Prompted this New Feature?

There have been a few recent instances that have prompted the iPhone green dot. First, back in July, some iOS 14 beta mode users found that Instagram was turning on their cameras, even when they weren’t taking a photo or video.

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A spokesperson for the app said that it was just a bug, and that the company was fixing it.

“We only access your camera when you tell us to — for example, when you swipe from Feed to Camera. We found and are fixing a bug in iOS 14 Beta that mistakenly indicates that some people are using the camera when they aren’t,” the spokesperson said. “We do not access your camera in those instances, and no content is recorded.” [3]

In September 2020, New Jersey Instagram user Brittany Conditi filed a lawsuit against Facebook in federal court in San Francisco. She accused Instagram of purposefully using the camera to collect “lucrative and valuable data on its users that it would not otherwise have access to.”

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She argued that Instagram and Facebook can collect valuable insights and market research by obtaining intimate personal data on their users [4].

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Read: The FBI Warns That Smart TVs Could be Hacked to Spy on You

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How the iPhone Green Dot Protects Your Privacy

This new feature on the iOS 14 alerts you when an app is using your camera. It also allows you to see which app is responsible. 

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Users have to give an app permission to access their camera or microphone. Typically, you do this when you install the app. Until now, however, users have had no way of knowing if or when the app is actually making use of those permissions. This has allowed apps to use the camera or the microphone without any indication to the user.

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The iPhone green dot changes that. When the green light comes on, simply swipe down from the corner of the phone to open your control center. The control center will show either an orange or green dot and a message telling you which app is using the camera or microphone.

If you find an app using your camera or microphone in a way that you don’t feel comfortable with, you can revoke its permissions.

All you have to do is go into your phone’s settings app and scroll down to find the app in question. You can then use the toggle to switch off its access to the camera or microphone. You can also take away its ability to access other parts of your phone, like your photos or location.

Apple’s Commitment to User Privacy

Apple has also added other new privacy features. One of these features are periodic reminders about which apps are accessing your location. Another is the option to only share specific photos with any given app.

Apple CEO Tim Cook has referred to privacy as a “human right”. These changes are part of the company’s public commitment to privacy [5].

Keep Reading: How to blur your house on Google Street View (and why you should)

You may also want to read: 15 apps on kids phones parents should watch out for

Brittany Hambleton
The Hearty Soul Team
Brittany is a freelance writer and editor with a Bachelor of Science in Foods and Nutrition and a writer’s certificate from the University of Western Ontario. She enjoyed a stint as a personal trainer and is an avid runner. Brittany loves to combine running and traveling, and has run numerous races across North America and Europe. She also loves chocolate more than anything else… the darker, the better!
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