Windows 11’s New Privacy Audit Feature Is Super Useful

Microsoft is working on a new privacy dashboard for Windows 11 in the Settings app where you can see exactly which apps or tools have access to sensitive hardware features like camera, microphone, or location. You can actively monitor usage or see what they are doing.

Microsoft is integrating the new privacy dashboard into the existing “Privacy and security” page in Settings. You can see the list of apps that use a camera, location, or microphone, and when they do. It’s not perfect because the feature won’t let you know when hardware features are being used by a certain driver, but it’s still very useful.

On Windows 10, hardware permissions can be a bit confusing, and Microsoft doesn’t give much information about using the app. Although you can see which application is using the microphone directly on the taskbar, it is not possible to view the list of applications that have previously accessed the hardware feature.

As you can see in the screenshot below, the new Windows 11 Privacy Dashboard is very useful and getting there isn’t difficult once you know where to look.

To access the feature, open Settings and navigate to Privacy & Security > App Permission.

Windows 11 Privacy Dashboard

This page will let you choose between hardware like camera, location, and microphone. If you select “camera”, you can see its “Recent Activity” by clicking on the drop-down menu, as you can see in the screenshot below.

The menu allows you to browse the camera usage timeline. Similarly, you can monitor application request activity for other hardware features, such as microphone or location.

Microphone Privacy

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 stealthily accessing the location while it’s running in the background.

As mentioned at the beginning, the feature doesn’t let you know when a particular process or driver has been granted access to certain permissions, like location or microphone access. These hardware features are essential because they can be misused to spy on where you are or what you are doing with a camera or microphone.

Windows has never had a privacy tool as useful as this, but it looks like Microsoft is taking steps to improve privacy controls in the operating system. Google 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 taskbar features for the operating system, including dynamic updates.

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Steven L. Nielsen