Is Covering Up Your Laptop’s Microphone and Camera a Good Practice?

Is Covering Up Your Laptop's Microphone and Camera a Good Practice?

Recently Mark Zuckerberg made the news when a picture showed him with his laptop, and the camera and microphone were covered up. This set everyone discussing it as to whether it was necessary or whether it was leading too much into paranoia. We decided to pose this question to our writers and asked them “Is covering up your laptop’s microphone and camera a good practice?

For the most part, we found that many of our writers believe covering up the camera and microphone is a good idea. While Derrik doesn’t have a laptop anymore, he does believe it’s a good practice to not have the camera and microphone available. When he did have a laptop he uninstalled the Linux module for cameras and just used a USB camera when he needed to.

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Mahesh also believes it’s a good idea so that you’re not sharing anything with “spying eyes.” However, he wants to make sure people are doing it because they feel they should, not just because Zuckerberg did it. After that picture made headlines, he saw websites teaching everyone how to do it, informing everyone they should do it as well.

Trevor figures there is always someone smarter than him who might want to use his information to steal his identity or mine it for someone else. He sees it as a good idea even if you’re not a person of interest like Zuckerberg. He compares it to locking the door on your house or not writing your PIN number on your ATM card: preventative.

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Charnita sees it as a good practice if it makes you feel comfortable but not just because it’s a new trend. She rarely uses a computer that has a camera or microphone so doesn’t worry about it. She doesn’t see it as important in her case, whereas she can see how it would be important for Zuckerberg. She jokes, “If someone wants to watch me stare at my screen all night long, they must be really bored.

I very much agree with Charnita. I don’t see anything wrong with it, but I don’t necessarily see the point for someone like me. To me, it’s a little too “foil hat.” I’m usually on my iPad and not a laptop anymore, but I still wouldn’t be worried about it if I was. They wouldn’t see or hear anything interesting other than me talking to my family. Maybe they’d heard some good gossip, but that would be about it. Maybe it’s ignorance on my part, but as they say, “Ignorance is bliss.”

What about you? Do you already have your camera and microphone taped up? Are you planning to do it since you saw that Zuckerberg does it? Or do you not feel it’s worthy of your time and effort? Is covering up your laptop’s microphone and camera a good practice? Let us know below in the comments.

21 comments

  1. It’s a little ridiculous to be honest.

    Should one cover the mic and camera(s) on their smartphones, gaming consoles, tablets, and smartwatches, too? If so, you’re gonna need a lot of tape!

    • I agree. At some point you have to either insure that the appropriate hard/soft switches are in place for the hardware and/ or insure that your operating systems are secure enough to block such incursions; OR you just roll the dice and pray you don’t have anything that anyone would want.

      The problem is, that level of tech doesn’t exist yet, and yet, here we have Zuc putting tape over his camera… It does seem someone silly, doesn’t it? If someone like Zuc is THAT concerned that he’s being spied on, then he needs to insure that Facebook can’t be hacked…

      Wait… what??

      • “If someone like Zuc is THAT concerned that he’s being spied on, then he needs to insure that Facebook can’t be hacked…”
        If Zuckerberg made Facebook more secure than he would not be able to collect and make money selling FB users’ data. He covers up because he doesn’t want FB to spy on him.

      • Christopher, you are wrong. That level of technology does exist. There is Malware that can access your camera, your microphone, and even your keyborad (recording keystrokes). Our friends at the FBI and the NSA are using it happily. Big brother IS watching, except of course if you are a member if ISIS – they don’t seem to watch them.

      • Wrong, “that level of tech” is simpler that you’d think. it has existed before smartphones, which only inherited it as as security flaw. Try talking about a certain brand of toothpaste a lot, next to the mic of your mobile (ideally with Google now enabled), then watch how the ads on webpages adjust… Really, just try it.

    • “Should one cover the mic and camera(s) on their smartphones, gaming consoles, tablets, and smartwatches, too?”
      In a word, YES. And you forgot Smart TVs.

      Any device that can be accessed with WiFi can and is used to spy on its user(s). Unfortunately, the manufacturers of “smart” devices, in their rush to get their products to market ASAP, have neglected their security.

      • Taking away the convenience of such devices erases their usefulness. What’s a smartphone without the ability to record audio or take photos/video? What’s the benefit of having a voice activated gaming console that is made to be permanently deaf (and blind)?

        • You’re quite right. Convenience should always take priority over privacy and security.

          • @Eric:
            “You have to be realistic”
            In other words, “Accept the inevitable”, “Grin and bear it”, “Bend over and grease up” because we WILL BE spied on whether we like it or not. If the Founding Fathers had a “let’s be realistic” attitude, now we’d be saying prayers five times a day, facing in the direction of London and singing “God Save the Queen”

  2. ” At some point you have to either insure that the appropriate hard/soft switches are in place for the hardware and/ or insure that your operating systems are secure enough to block such incursions…”

    There’s a lot of points of failure there, even if this tech existed. Plus it’s a lot of complicated software and hardware configuration that’s simplified with a small square of electrical tape.

    To be honest, I’m shocked one of the manufacturers of screen protectors hasn’t come out with a camera-covering product yet. This seems to be something right up 3M’s alley.

  3. I put a foil smiley face sticker over the camera lens on my laptop when I’m not using it. Same for the phone. Not much different than putting curtains on my windows.
    Microphone on my laptop is disabled in the OS.
    Am I paranoid? Yes.
    “Just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean they aren’t after you”.

  4. For anyone who does not understand why covering it up is a must, just goggle the term “ratting”. That is probably the scariest reason, but of course not the only. If you believe you are safe from prying eyes, be it gvnmt bodies, individual, or even facebook itself (or worse yet: google), you live in a dream…

  5. Yes, I strongly agree. One should disable the camera and Microphone if not being used. If you just disable the Hackers have the ability to enable it. It is better to cover the camera with a sticker and use an external mic when needed.

  6. The first thing I do with a new laptop is physically disconnecting webcam and microphone. I don’t use them, and I don’t want anyone else to use my hardware, especially not to spy on me. So why not? It’s five minutes of my life, tops. Duct tape also works, I guess, but it’s not really that stylish.
    And should the need arise, well.. then I reconnect it for that particular session. It’s a quite simple thing to do for a bit better privacy (yes, I know there is no such thing as complete privacy on a network connected computer, but you can at least make them work a bit for the info..)

  7. Gee, we are a paranoid bunch, aren’t we?
    Go ahead, cover your camera and mic, but believe me when I say that nobody cares what you are doing, or what you look like!
    And if you REALLY have something to hide, then you should worry about other means that information can be culled from you without you even knowing about it.

  8. I’ve covered mine. Why should I have to be concerned about my private life? This world wants to know everything about us. If Zuckerberg covers his.. what does that tell us? We need to be awake and not ‘dumbed downnsheeple’, as they want us to be.

  9. @Laura Tucker:
    “They wouldn’t see or hear anything interesting …… Maybe it’s ignorance on my part, but as they say, “Ignorance is bliss.””
    Yes, ignorance is bliss. Depending on the filed of view of the camera, the hackers can record all your keystrokes as you enter your passwords for various sites.

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