Microsoft is working on a new privacy dashboard for Windows 11 within the Settings app where you can see exactly which apps or tools have access to sensitive hardware features such as camera, microphone or location. You can actively monitor usage or see what they are doing with it.
Microsoft integrates the new privacy dashboard into the existing ‘Privacy & Security’ page in the Settings. You can see the list of apps that use a camera, location, or microphone and when they do it. It’s not perfect because the feature doesn’t let you find out when the hardware features are being used by a particular driver, but it’s still super useful.
On Windows 10, hardware permissions can be a bit confusing and Microsoft doesn’t specify much information about app usage. While you can see which app is using the microphone directly on the taskbar, it is not possible to view the list of apps that previously had access to the hardware functionality.
As you can see in the screenshot below, Windows 11’s new privacy dashboard is quite useful and it’s not hard to get there once you know where to look.
To access the feature, open Settings and go to Privacy & security > App permission.
On this page you can choose between hardware such as camera, location and microphone. If you select “camera”, you can see its “Recent Activity” by clicking the drop-down menu as you can see in the screenshot below.
The menu allows you to scroll through the camera usage timeline. Likewise, you can check the app request activity for other hardware features such as a microphone or location.
You’ll find obvious things like Microsoft Edge using your location and Microsoft Teams using your microphone, but you might see more surprising things like a third-party app that quietly accesses location while running in the background.
As mentioned at the beginning, this feature does not allow you to find out when a particular process or driver has been granted access to certain permissions, such as location or microphone access. These hardware features are critical as they can be exploited to spy on where you are or what you are doing with a camera or microphone.
Windows has never had such a handy privacy tool, but it seems that Microsoft is taking steps to improve privacy controls in the operating system. Google has added a similar feature to Android with version 12, and Google’s implementation is also far from perfect.
In addition to new privacy controls, Microsoft is also exploring new operating system taskbar features, including dynamic updates.