You’ve probably had the (legitimate) fear that your smartphone is listening or watching you. Your iPhone certainly isn’t without privacy risks, and you should absolutely audit your settings and all of your app permissions, but one helpful feature that Apple has built in is a visual warning when your device is queued up to record you.
There are two indicator lights in the status bar in upper-right corner of the iPhone screen that tell you when one or both of your recording functions are in use. A yellow or orange-looking dot appears when your device’s microphone is active. You’ll see a green dot when your camera (or camera plus microphone) is being accessed.
You’ll commonly see these indicator lights when using social media apps that allow you to record and post videos—Instagram, Snapchat, and TikTok, for example—but other apps that have requested access to your phone’s camera will also trigger the dots.
How to disable camera and mic access for your apps
If you don’t want specific apps accessing your camera or microphone, you can disable them in your iPhone settings. Obviously this will limit certain functionality in those apps.
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Open Settings and tap Privacy > Microphone. This will give you a list of all the apps that have requested access to your microphone. Toggle off any you want to disable.
To cut off camera access, go to Settings > Privacy > Camera and toggle off any apps you don’t want using your camera.
You can also adjust other app privacy settings, such as Location Services and photo library access, at the same time if you go to Settings and scroll down to the list of apps you have installed, and tap the one you want to edit.
Note that some Apple apps, such as Voice Memos (and obviously Camera), may also activate your microphone or camera and the corresponding indicator light but not show up in your privacy settings. So if you’ve disconnected all apps listed from your recording functions and still see an orange or green dot, there may be a reason other than that someone is spying on you.