Your computer microphone is still listening, even on mute – Try this trick

With many people working remotely, everyone should now know how to behave when in a Zoom or Microsoft Teams meeting. Your camera captures every movement, even when you think no one is watching, and your microphone can capture the faintest sounds.

Most people assume that muting the microphone of their computer gives them complete privacy. That should be the case, but it is not.

Read on to find out how your microphone sneakily still listens to everything you say.

Here’s the back story

Researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison discovered that your device’s microphone continues to listen, even after pressing the mute switch.

Although the researchers did not name the specific applications that do this, they strongly suggest that it is most video and conference calling apps. In a blog post, the study claims that all the apps they tested “occasionally collect raw audio data while mute is enabled.”

If that’s not bad enough, the audio is transmitted to the hosting platform’s servers. The team further explains that in at least one case, an app “delivered data to its server at the same speed, whether the microphone is muted or not.”

It also does not matter whether you use a built-in microphone or an external one, as it is the platform’s software that dictates how the microphone works. The research team plans to present its findings to a panel at July’s Privacy Enhancing Technologies Symposium.

What you can do about it

The best way to ensure that you are actually turned off when you are on a video chat is to turn off the chat application and the microphone you are using. If it is an external microphone, disconnect it. If you use earphones, you can mute the microphone on them. The combination of a muted chat program and microphone should work.

The technique is called “double muting”, where you turn yourself off in the application and on your device.

To mute the microphone via settings on one Windows computer:

  • Right click Start button and click Settings.
  • click Systemthen Sound.
  • Below Input, you should see your microphone in the list. click Device properties.
  • Here you have two options. Either lower the volume on your microphone to zero or click Disable button.

Just remember to turn it on again before you speak. You can also right-click the microphone icon in the taskbar, click Open Volume Mixer and mute the microphone.

On a Apple Mac:

  • click on Apple buttonthen System preferences.
  • click Sound followed by Input.
  • In the next window, move the microphone volume slider to the left to turn it off.

Keep reading

To turn off your computer’s webcam and microphone

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