How to manage the microphone and camera privacy settings on your Chromebook
Because nobody wants to accidentally see you in your underwear.
The WebRTC protocol is a really cool thing. It’s that thing a website can do that lets you use your microphone and camera on any website without installing any extra plugins or using Flash. This is the kind of stuff we need if we want everything on the web to just work everywhere.
But having a microphone and camera active is one of those things that you probably want to only happen when you want it to happen. It’s important to make sure your privacy settings are in order here since every Chromebook has both a mic and a camera. Thankfully, it’s also easy to do once you know where to look.
Finding the settings
By default, your Chromebook is set to ask you when a web page wants to use the mic and camera. That’s good because the setting is buried in the “advanced” section of the settings page. But you still might want to have a look to see what sites you’ve allowed or blocked and change things if they need to be changed.
- Click the Notifications symbol inside the status area. That’s the bell in the bottom right corner where your account picture lives.
- Click the Settings symbol (the gear), then click Advanced settings.
- Click Privacy, you’ll see Content settings.
- In the pop-up window that appears, scroll down to find Camera and Microphone. They each have their own settings page, but adjusting things is exactly the same for each.
Changing the settings
- At the top of the window that opens you can choose which device you’re changing settings for. If you have a separate mic or camera plugged into your Chromebook, make sure to adjust the settings for both it and the built-in one.
- Next, you see a switch that says Ask before accessing (recommended). If this switch is on it will be blue and when a website wants to use your mic or camera it will prompt you with a dialog popup that asks for permission before going any further. This is probably what you want to happen, so make sure it’s switched on.
- Next is the Block list and the Allow list. These are websites that you have previously blocked or allowed access to your mic and/or camera. You can remove websites from either list by clicking the X on their list entry.
Unfortunately, there is no setting to allow or block a site just once. When you choose to do either that site is put on the corresponding list and you’re not prompted the next time you visit and the site wants to access your mic or camera. This is convenient for a website like Google Hangouts, but not so great for privacy in general. We suggest that you have a look and which sites can have access every once in a while and remove any that you feel shouldn’t be there.