How to tell if Android apps are using a microphone in the background

Even if you absolutely love Android, sometimes iOS adds a feature that you would like to have, like additional security features. In iOS 14, a new alert feature in the form of a small dot lets users know whenever apps are using the microphone or camera. However, you don’t have to upgrade to an iPhone. Android users just need the free Access Dots app for similar security alerts.

Why you need alerts

Applications must first request permission to access your camera and / or microphone. However, there is only one problem. Once permission is granted, apps can use your microphone or camera anytime in the background.

While it’s good to believe that all apps are nice and care about your privacy, the truth is, many aren’t. They could be listening or watching you at any time. Without any indicators on your device, you honestly don’t know when apps are using your mic or camera.

A simple but effective point serves as an alert to let you know something is going on. It’s unobtrusive but lets you know which apps may try to spy on you.

Purpose of access points

As the name suggests, Access points uses dots to notify you when an app is accessing your camera or microphone. It works the same as the iOS 14 feature. The app itself is completely free to download and use, although the developer does offer a way to donate if you wish. Paying for the app gives you some extra features, such as changing the point size.

Increase Android privacy with the Android Dots Play Store

This is still a new app, as it was released in July 2020, so there might still be some issues that need to be addressed. It’s a seemingly simple app, but it serves its purpose. There is nothing more or less about it.

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The app description indicates that the app is currently under development, so more features may be added. Currently, you only receive alerts and a log of apps that have recently accessed your mic and / or camera.

Use of access points

There is only one toggle to activate to start using the access points. Tap the switch in the middle of the app to get started.

Increase Android Privacy with Android Dots ToggleIncrease Android Privacy with Android Dots Toggle

The first time you use it, you will need to activate the app as an accessibility service. The only reason the app needs it is to detect when other apps are using sensors on your device. The app does not access your microphone or camera. If you are not redirected to your accessibility settings, go to “Settings -> Accessibility”.

Increase Android privacy with accessibility of Android pointsIncrease Android privacy with accessibility of Android points

Tap Access Dots and toggle the option to ‘On’ This activates the app.

Increase Android Privacy With Android Points Accessibility EnabledIncrease Android Privacy With Android Points Accessibility Enabled

Exit accessibility settings and reopen Access Dots. If that links you to accessibility, clear the window completely. Open the app again and tap the Settings icon at the bottom right.

Increase Android privacy with Android Dots settingsIncrease Android privacy with Android Dots settings

Although it is not mandatory, you can customize the app a bit to suit your preferences. For example, the default color point for accessing the camera is green and the microphone is orange. Tap the colors of the dots to change them to any color you prefer. There’s an ad in the Settings area, but it’s the only ad you’ll see in the app. You can also change the location of the point on your screen. To set exact coordinates you will need the premium version.

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Test it out by opening an app that you already know is accessing your microphone or camera. For example, I opened Google Duo and instantly saw a green dot in the upper right corner, indicating that my camera was in use.

Increase Android privacy with Android Dots Green DotIncrease Android privacy with Android Dots Green Dot

Troubleshooting

If you have blocked all apps from running in the background, Access Dots may not work correctly. You can check this and allow background data usage by going to your device settings. Tap “Apps & Notifications -> App Info -> Access Points”. Select “Data usage”. Make sure that “Background data is turned on.” If you have enabled the data saver, you may also need to enable “Unlimited data usage”. My app works fine with the data saver turned on, but it may not work on all Android devices this way.

Increase Android privacy with the use of Android Dots dataIncrease Android privacy with the use of Android Dots data

Since the app is brand new, expect occasional bugs. However, notify the developer of any issues so they can continue to optimize the application.

At the same time, you might also want to stop background apps to protect your privacy and save battery.

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