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I was having a discussion with some friends about the built in camera of computer and what you can do with them, and I realized that my macbook has one of those. That got me thinking about how the camera and LED are connected; Are they connected to the same power supply or can they be turned on or off individually?

If it's not connected to the same power supply has Apple said anything to ensure my privacy against anyone looking at me without the LED turning on?

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marked as duplicate by patrix Dec 12 '13 at 14:05

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It's probably controlled by the camera firmware. There's a tiny PCB that functions as an independent unit even though its inside the bezel of your MacBook. That's why the camera shows up as a USB device in System Profiler. It's theoretically possible for someone to flash that firmware with a different program, but I've never heard of that happening to date. –  NReilingh Oct 3 '11 at 10:09
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I'll note that the Philadelphia High School incident, the kids reported their camera lights randomly blinking on. So even security software apparently cannot disable the status light. Or the developers just never worked it in, one of the two. –  Jason Salaz Oct 3 '11 at 10:28
    
Please use the search function, as very similar questions have been asked here before. See: Is my Mac spying on me? , Hard wired link between webcam and led indicator?. –  Asmus Dec 12 '13 at 10:43

3 Answers 3

I don't think turning off the green light while accessing the iSight is possible. I have checked the following sources for evidences against:

  • Security software like Prey and Undercover - They are highly motivated to do so, but unable to.
  • Drivers for other OS-es (Linux).
  • Forums, mailing lists and security advisories.

And the conclusion is:

All Apple laptops have cameras that cannot be disabled (of course (unless the LED is burnt out) due to the way the iSight is set up electrically, the green light will always be on when in use).

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Apparently camera signals are used for adjusting screen brightness. Try it out: when you cover the camera lens, the screen goes darker within a few seconds. The change is even reflected on the bar graph you see when you manually adjust the brightness so no mistaking there. This proves that some optical information gan be read from the camera even though the indicator light is off.

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I am sorry to tell you but the camera is not used to adjust the screen brightness. On MacBooks there is a tiny ambient light sensor next to the camera which is barely visible that is responsible for automatically adjusting the brightness. In newer MacBook Pro models, there is a tiny dot to the left of the iSight camera. This is the ambient light sensor - not the camera itself as is widely mistaken. (In older MacBook Pro models, it was located within the speaker grills) –  Chrisii Dec 12 '13 at 10:04

I have in the past seen screen savers that have been able to access the camera to create flame or color effects based of the captured video. These screesavers had active access to the camera and yet the green LED was off. These screen savers were running on an iMac 2008 with 10.5. I have since tried those screen savers on newer OSes and they weren't compatible. Not sure if Apple changed to OS to prevent those things, if there was a firmware patch or what but I have seen this before.

I do agree with mspasov that Prey, Undercover, and Hidden are apps that would love this ability. If I see anything else in my search for an answer I will do my best to update.

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