Most laptops and personal computers have webcams with LED indicators to notify users when they are recording. Because hackers use surreptitiously captured webcam recordings to extort users, we explored the effectiveness of these indicators under varying circumstances and how they could be improved. We observed that, on average, fewer than half of our participants (45%) noticed the existing indicator during computer-based tasks. When seated in front of the computer performing a paper-based task, only 5% noticed the indicator. We performed a followup experiment to evaluate a new indicator and observed that adding onscreen glyphs had a significant impact on both computer-based and non-computer-based tasks (93% and 59% noticed the new indicator, respectively). We discuss how our results can be integrated into current systems, as well as future ubiquitous computing systems.
Rebecca S. Portnoff, Linda N. Lee, Serge Egelman, Pratyush Mishra, Derek Leung, and David Wagner. Somebody’s Watching Me? Assessing the Effectiveness of Webcam Indicator Lights. In Proceedings of the SIGCHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (CHI ’15). ACM, New York, NY, USA. 2015.