Use Access Dots to Find Out If Apps Are Using Microphone and Camera in the Background

Increase Android Privacy With Android Dots

Even if you absolutely love Android, sometimes iOS adds a feature you would love to have, such as extra security features. In iOS 14, a new alert feature in the form of a small dot lets users know whenever apps are using the microphone or camera. You don’t have to switch to an iPhone, though. Android users just need the free app Access Dots for similar security alerts.

Why You Need Alerts

Apps initially have to ask permission to gain access to your camera and/or microphone. There’s just one problem with that, though. Once permission is granted, apps can use your microphone or camera at any time in the background.

While it’s nice to believe all apps are nice and care about your privacy, the truth is many don’t. They could be listening or watching you at any time. Without any indicator on your device, you honestly don’t know when apps are using your mic or camera.

A simple, yet effective dot serves as an alert to let you know something’s going on. It’s unobtrusive yet makes you aware of apps that may try to spy on you.

Purpose of Access Dots

As the name implies, Access Dots uses dots to let you know when an app is accessing your camera or microphone. It works similarly to the iOS 14 feature. The app itself is completely free to download and use, though the developer does offer a way to donate if you’d like. Paying for the app gives you a few extra features, such as changing the size of the dots.

Increase Android Privacy With Android Dots Play Store

It’s still a new app, as it was released in July 2020, so there could still be some kinks to work out. It’s a seemingly simple app, but it serves its purpose. There’s nothing more or less about it.

The app description does state that the app is currently under development, so more features could be added. Currently, you just get alerts and a log of apps that have recently accessed your mic and/or camera.

Using Access Dots

There’s only one toggle to switch on to start using Access Dots. Tap the switch in the middle of the app to get started.

Increase Android Privacy With Android Dots Toggle

The first time you use it, you’ll need to enable the app as an accessibility service. The only reason the app needs this is to detect when other apps are using sensors on your device. The app doesn’t access your microphone or camera. If you’re not taken to your Accessibility settings, go to “Settings -> Accessibility.”

Increase Android Privacy With Android Dots Accessibility

Tap Access Dots and toggle the option to “On” This turns the app on.

Increase Android Privacy With Android Dots Accessibility On

Exit the Accessibility settings and re-open Access Dots. If this sends you back to Accessibility, clear out the window completely. Open the app again and tap the Settings icon at the bottom right.

Increase Android Privacy With Android Dots Settings

While not required, you can customize the app a little to your preferences. For instance, the default color dot for camera access is green and the microphone is orange. Tap the dot colors to change them to any color you would prefer. There is an ad in the Settings area, but that’s the only ad you’ll see in the app. You can also change the location of the dot on your screen. To set exact coordinates, you’ll need the premium version.

Test it by opening an app that you already know accesses your microphone or camera. For example, I opened Google Duo and instantly saw a green dot in the top-right corner, indicating my camera was in use.

Increase Android Privacy With Android Dots Green Dot

Troubleshooting

If you’ve blocked all apps from running in the background, Access Dots may not function correctly. You can check this and allow background data usage by going to your device’s Settings. Tap “Apps & notifications -> App Info -> Access Dots.” Select “Data usage.” Ensure “Background data is enabled.” If you have Data Saver turned on, you may also need to enable “Unrestricted data usage.” My app works well with Data Saver on, but it may not work on all Android devices this way.

Increase Android Privacy With Android Dots Data Usage

Since the app is brand new, expect the occasional bug. However, let the developer know about any issues so they can continue optimizing the app.

At the same time, you may also want to stop apps running in the background to protect your privacy and to conserve your battery.

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Crystal Crowder Crystal Crowder

Crystal Crowder has spent over 15 years working in the tech industry, first as an IT technician and then as a writer. She works to help teach others how to get the most from their devices, systems, and apps. She stays on top of the latest trends and is always finding solutions to common tech problems.

One comment

  1. Hi Crystal,
    Thanks for this article and detailed description of the app. I found your article while searching for a solution to a problem I am having with the Google Assistant. The Google assistant is currently not responding to my voice.

    It sounds like this app, in addition to being generally useful, may help me find out if some other application is locking up access to my microphone.

    I appreciate your clear and concise writing style!

    Thanks again!

    Reg

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