iPhones, iPads, and Android devices all record which apps access sensitive data (like cameras), but Windows PCs can’t easily do the same. Thankfully, Microsoft might change that soon.
BleepingComputer spotted a new feature in a recent Windows 11 Preview Build in the Dev Channel, accessible to Windows Insider testers, which records when apps access sensitive information. The current list in the Settings app (under Privacy & security > App permissions) includes apps that access your camera, microphone, and contacts.
Windows also tells you what time the data was accessed, so you can tell if an app is doing something in the background that it shouldn’t. For example, if a messaging app accesses your camera while you’re not on a call, that could be a bad sign (or at least an indication of a worrying bug).
Unfortunately, the privacy access list in Windows 11 doesn’t track everything — at least, not yet. David Weston at Microsoft confirmed that the feature doesn’t monitor activity from drivers, so malicious apps still have a few ways to mask their activity.
Windows 10 and 11 already have an indicator for when the microphone is in use, but a historical record of access is more helpful for figuring out which applications aren’t behaving properly over time. Apple has offered a similar feature on iPhones and iPads for a while, and Android 12 and newer has a ‘Privacy Dashboard’ with the same information.