Here at Mac Ranch, we frequently take computers in for repair and notice a trend: people like to put tape, stickers or even plastic covers over their FaceTime camera. We understand some of the concern surrounding this issue; articles make the rounds every so often about some new virus that allows people to access your camera without your knowledge. The idea that someone is using your camera illicitly is also a popular threat in scam emails – a scammer will insist they have somehow compromising footage of you, and will post it publicly if you don’t pay them. Hence the popularity of covering one’s camera.
Here’s the thing: Macs have excellent security. Consumers’ privacy and security are major concerns for Apple. One of their efforts to address those concerns is the camera indicator light. Whenever your FaceTime Camera is active, there is a small glowing green light next to it. If the camera is on, the light is on – full stop. If your Mac’s camera indicator light is on when you don’t think it should be, that’s something to look into (but don’t panic yet; you may just have a Zoom window open in the background somewhere…); but there is no risk of the dreaded hackers turning that camera on without you knowing about it.
Using a cover like this also introduces a whole new problem into your life: they can break your display. Mac laptops are designed to close perfectly; it’s a very tight, precise fit. Any material that interferes with the computer closing properly can potentially damage the display – a rough closure with some sort of covering in place, and you might even crack the display. Even if it’s a thin cover, like a sticky note or piece of tape, that’s still a risk: the adhesive can interfere with your camera’s image quality, and trying to remove those traces of adhesive again poses the risk of damage to the display.
It’s worth noting at this point that a display is generally the most expensive part of a Mac to replace. And I don’t just mean it’ll hurt your wallet; I mean it’s occasionally cheaper to buy a new computer than to replace a display. So if you’re concerned about the security of your Mac’s FaceTime camera, please, folks, don’t put weird things on top of it: just come talk to us, we’re here to help.