Android smartphones: is the always-on camera becoming a privacy nightmare?

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With the Snapdragon 8 Gen 1, the next top SoC from Qualcomm is ready for the new top-class Android phones. In addition to more performance, it brings a feature that will raise concerns among many customers: Your smartphone can keep an eye on you around the clock.

The new top chip for Android phones always leaves the camera on

We already know an always-on display, usually a really practical thing. But it looks different with an always-on camera, as will be made possible by Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 8 Gen 1. In particular, the front cameras of smartphones in which the new SoC is used should be permanently switched on and observe the surroundings. Qualcomm markets this as an additional data protection feature.

For example, the permanently switched-on camera could recognize when someone is reading over the shoulder of the actual owner and then lock the screen. Of course, unlocking by the camera should also work if the owner is in front of it, even without even picking up the phone. It is made possible by the improved AI of the Snapdragon.

For practical use in everyday life, the Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 also optimizes the camera’s energy consumption so that it can run continuously (source: Qualcomm ). An always-on camera is likely to be found in many flagship smartphones with Android as early as next year. With Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 comes Xiaomi’s new 12 series. 

The power pack is also built into the OnePlus 10 Pro . Qualcomm also lists Vivo, Realme, Oppo and ZTE as partners, to name a few.

Snapdragon 8 Gen 1: what else does this have to do with privacy?

Technically an exciting innovation, the upcoming always-on cameras shouldn’t be viewed uncritically. Because it has nothing to do with the protection of privacy if the mobile phone camera is continuously running. After all, such a feature can only be represented if it can be deactivated by the user. But you have to trust that this will work satisfactorily.

Anyone who is skeptical about voice assistants should think twice about purchasing an Android smartphone in the upper price range in the future. Because then they no longer just keep listening to whether they are needed, but also watch what is going on around them 24 hours a day .