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Future Chromebooks might protect you from screen peekers

Don't want other coffee shop customers to see what you're working on? Google might have a solution for Chromebooks.

Published onNovember 25, 2021

Google Pixelbook Go on a table
  • Google is apparently working on a way to protect against screen peeking on Chromebooks.
  • It’s believed that the snooping protection feature requires a dedicated sensor.

Screen peeking is one concern you might have when using a laptop with people around you, especially in places like coffee shops. We’ve already seen solutions on PC such as privacy filters that drastically dim the screen at wide angles, but it looks like Google has a more advanced solution for Chromebooks.

9to5Google has spotted a new Chrome flag for a so-called “snooping protection” feature that’s coming to Chromebooks.

“Enables snooping protection to notify you whenever there is a ‘snooper’ looking over your shoulder. Can be enabled and disabled from the Smart privacy section of your device settings,” reads the relevant flag.

The outlet added that the Chromebook snooping protection feature relies on a “Human Presence Sensor” that it uncovered earlier this year. This sensor is purportedly used in conjunction with a Chromebook’s webcam to determine whether someone else is visible and potentially looking at your screen.

How would Chromebook snooping protection work?

The snooping protection feature doesn’t seem to be an all-or-nothing affair, according to the flag. Actions taken when your screen is potentially being watched include an eye icon being displayed in the corner of your screen, a notification that someone might be watching your display, or your screen being dimmed.

9to5Google adds that Chrome OS can also temporarily disable notifications when someone is looking over your shoulder, citing another flag.

Unfortunately, the outlet also reckons that the reliance on a dedicated sensor means that these features might only come to enterprise Chromebooks. Presumably, the sensor improves power efficiency and accuracy, but we hope Google figures out a way to solely rely on a standard webcam.

This wouldn’t be the only neat solution to screen snooping we’ve seen in recent years. Android-powered Blackberry phones previously offered a Privacy Shade feature, blocking out all but a small area of the screen to make it harder for snoopers to see. So we’d certainly like to see something like this on more devices.

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