If you’ve ever experienced that eerie moment where you’ve been chatting about needing a new pair of shoes, then see an ad for a shoe sale in the middle of your social media feed just a few minutes later, you’ve likely wondered just how much our devices are listening in without us realising. Whether or not that’s happened to you, privacy and security are concerns for us all, and it’s important to know what our devices are up to.
Thankfully, macOS Mojave adds some handy settings that give you more granular control over app permissions, specifically apps that can access your Mac’s camera and microphone. Here’s how to find and edit what your apps are and are not allowed to do.
Check current app permissions
While Mojave will now prompt you with a message when an app is requesting camera or mic permissions — along with requests to access your location, contacts, photos or calendar features — any apps previously installed may already have some of these permissions granted.
To check which apps are allowed to do what, navigate to Security and Privacy in the System Preferences drop-down menu. Next, open the Privacy tab, where you will find a list of different features and services that can be accessed by the apps you have installed.
The list includes the aforementioned Location Services, Contacts, Calendar, Reminders and Photos features, and Mojave adds new spots for Camera and Microphone at the bottom of the list. Clicking on an item in the list will display which apps have had that permission previously granted.
In order to control which apps can use your Mac’s mic or webcam specifically, click on Camera or Microphone. Next to each listed app will be a checkbox — checking the box grants the app permission to access that feature, while unchecking the box blocks it.
Lock it down
Once you’ve reviewed and modified the app permissions and found everything to your liking, you’re now in the clear. It feels nice to know nosey apps will now butt out of your business, but keep in mind that some apps will require certain permissions in order to properly function.
For example, if you’ve turned off mic and camera permissions for a video chatting program, it isn’t going to work properly, and some apps may not even open or install at all.
Luckily, you can set your permissions to be easily modified.
At the bottom of each permission list in the Privacy tab there is a padlock icon, and while it’s probably self-evident what this little guy does, in order to change some permissions, such as which apps can access Location Services, you’ll need to make sure the icon is set to “unlock”.
Leaving it unlocked also makes it easier to change permissions on the fly, while locking it will keep your preferences as-is and prevent any changes from being made as long as it’s locked.