Google Upgrades Chromebook Privacy with a Camera and Mic Switch

    Google is adding new systemwide microphone and camera access toggles to ChromeOS settings. This can block apps and websites from using them instantly.

    The new systemwide controls for privacy cut off access to hardware by the rest of your computer. This is, in essence, a replacement software to the physical kill switches found on PC laptops.

    Chromebook makers can use ChromeOS’ built-in solution to simplify laptop designs instead of adding hardware switches, such as on Framework Chromebook, or even a plastic sliding gate, which obscures the camera lens. There’s no way to be more secure than cutting off power to the microphone and camera. A plastic sliding gate can also serve as a visual confirmation.

    Google has confirmed that the ChromeOS toggles for camera and microphone will be available in a future, unspecified software update. “Later this year,” Google said. Chromebook users can access Privacy Controls under Settings > Security & Privacy once the update is available.

    Google has also expanded enterprise- and business security features. These include new identity control and data control tools that can help IT departments manage users and prevent sensitive information from accidentally traveling outside of organizations. This includes the ability to prevent users from sending sensitive files to places where they shouldn’t be sent, to print only the pages they are supposed to print, to suppress the copy and paste feature to stop text from falling into the wrong place and more.

    Google is working with third-party security and management companies such as Palo Alto Networks and ClowdStrike to help IT departments integrate Chromebooks into their environments. Google’s XDR framework can be used by organizations that use CrowdStrike XDR for threat monitoring to connect Chromebooks to Falcon. Google has also developed connectors for organizations using Chronicle and Cortex to report access events, and Azure AD and Netskope as Identity management tools.

    ChromeOS is a mobile device management-focused operating system. These new tools may make Chromebooks more appealing to enterprises. Google is also at a good time: after the rush of covid computers, IT departments will be thinking about upgrading their hardware. Chromebooks are a good option, but they have a short lifespan and are difficult to repair according to the US Public Interest Research Group Education Fund.

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