Earlier this week, Microsoft released the Surface Book 3 and Surface Go 2, both new devices with updated configurations and Windows Hello to give users a more secure sign-in experience. While Windows Hello is safe, it also needs a compatible webcam, but some manufacturers have started adding a physical camera cover to the camera to cover the camera because of user concerns about hackers hijacking it, but surface devices don’t have that design, leading many to question the decision.
It’s unclear why Microsoft decided not to add a physical lens cover to increase user peace of mind, but Stevie Bathiche, head of Microsoft’s application science division, told PCWorld that surface devices already have the ability to protect users. Because the camera LEDs on surface devices are independent and not controlled by the software, if it lights up, it means the camera is in use, making it almost impossible for the uninterested to invade the device and disable the camera LED.
Since the light is not controlled by the software but by the camera itself, it is completely separate from the operating system, which means that if the light is on means it is sending data, the camera cannot work without the light on.
Bathiche went on to explain the importance of the microphone icon on the taskbar notifying the user when using the microphone. Laptops like Lenovo’s ThinkPad have solved the eavesdropping problem by adding a dedicated lens cover to cover the camera, and a combination of hardware buttons that turn off the microphone to turn off the microphone (there is also a light on the function key to turn off the microphone).
Pictured is the lens cover of ThinkPad
While Microsoft doesn’t offer these options, Bathiche believes that separating the camera’s LED lights, along with a microphone icon, is enough to protect users’ privacy.