Don’t let webcams and laptops spy on you: preserve your privacy with the automatically-closing spring-loaded manual camera cover!


In the modern era, people generally have at multiple wirelessly-enabled Internet-accessible cameras and microphones (Figure 1) within arm’s reach for 90% of their waking hours.

Fig. 1: The most popular “it could potentially be watching me” devices are currently: 1) smartphones, 2) regular computers, 3) home security cameras, and 4) camera-enabled ”smart” hubs.

The Issue:

The proliferation of cameras in the home can pose a privacy issue: the only thing preventing a camera and microphone from turning on is software, which means that it’s fundamentally impossible to guarantee that a camera can’t turn on at any moment.

Many cameras have a tiny “on” light (Figure 2), but this is usually not especially noticeable.

Fig. 2: This “on” light is better than nothing, but there’s a big difference between “you can’t be spied on” and “you might possibly notice when you are spied on.”


The most obvious solution is also the most widespread: physically cover the camera! As long as there’s no electronic mechanism to open the cover, software bugs (and malware) can’t uncover the camera. The user has to physically reach over to it every time they want it on.

The most popular solutions:

  • ▪ Yellow sticky note. Works fine, but annoying to add/remove. Can fall off laptop screens.
  • ▪ A more “professional” plastic camera-blocking slider that sticks (with adhesive) to the laptop screen. This works extremely well, but the user must remember to close the slider.

We can enhance this plastic camera-cover slider by making it spring-loaded, so that it will automatically close after a certain amount of time (Figure 3).

Fig. 3: Left: a laptop camera. Middle: a circular spring-loaded camera cover. The center spindle (lime green) is  attached adhesively to the laptop screen. Right: A) the user uncovers the camera by spinning the cover counter-clockwise. Over time, B) the cover slowly moving back towards C) its original position, which covers the camera. The spring is (somehow) located in the lime center spindle.

Now the user can’t forget to re-cover their camera after using it for a meeting!


A fancier version of this idea be integrated into the laptop itself by the manufactorer: a physical cover that could be closed by software (perhaps after a configurable time delay) but could only be opened by a user-controlled physical mechanism.

PROS: This is a practical extension to the plastic “camera cover slider” device.

CONS: It’s a bit unclear how sturdy the aftermarket circular cover would be in practice: it might be too large and awkward to survive daily use on a laptop.