With folks in parts of the U.S. beginning to go back into the office after working from home for months, Apple has an important reminder: Don’t close your laptop while using a webcam cover.
While the message might sound like kind of a no-brainer, many of those working from home have turned to simple plastic or metal webcam covers to help prevent themselves from inadvertently sharing something private during a video call. And if that wasn’t enough, many are also worried about hackers potentially gaining control of their laptop’s webcam and recording video without their knowledge (which is rare, but does happen from time to time).
The problem with webcam covers is that if you forget they are there and you go to close your laptop, the small bezels and tight tolerances on many modern laptops—especially new MacBooks—means webcam covers can put extra pressure on your screen and potentially harm the underlying pixels. If you’re not careful, this can cause permanent damage that results in a line of bright pixels that span the full height of your laptop’s screen.
ZDNet talked to an Apple repair technician who said Apple has recently seen a rise in the number of broken screens caused by webcam covers as people start to shift back to working out of an office. Generally, people who use tape or a thin adhesive to cover up their webcams are fine, but anything thicker than two or three millimeters can potentially pose a problem, with the Apple technician recounting the case of a MacBook screen that was damaged after the laptop was closed on a coin.
And while covering up your webcam might seem like a simple way to improve your security, it’s also kind of a shoddy fix. Depending on where it’s positioned, a webcam cover can block a laptop’s ambient light sensor, which can cause things like automatic display brightness or Apple’s True Tone color adjustment to stop functioning correctly.
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Apple says that the webcams on MacBooks are designed so that whenever they are in use, the indicator light next to it glows green, so there’s never a question whether the webcam is on or off. (It is theoretically possible to disable this light, though, so it’s not a perfect system.)
If you use a webcam cover and are planning to move your laptop around after having been quarantined at home for months, you’ve been warned.