In today’s day and age, privacy has become a much talked about topic and it has become very critical to know when apps are tracking your usage or activity and exactly what information is being sent. Thanks to Apple’s efforts over the last few years, if you’re using an iOS device, you know exactly when an app requests permission to access your Microphone, Camera, Photos, Contacts, etc. Unfortunately, OS X on the Mac is a lot more open compared to iOS and hence, apps can and have had access to a variety of resources, at least before Apple introduced Sandboxing for apps on the App Store. For apps installed from 3rd party sources, you’re still unsure what the app is doing. Thankfully, now there’s Micro Snitch. Micro Snitch is a new product from the people at Objective Development, known for making two of my favorite apps — Launchbar and Little Snitch. Not just the apps, I also love the icons that Obdev chooses for their apps. Just take a look at the featured image above.
Once installed and running, Micro Snitch works behind the scenes and monitors the hardware activity on your Mac. As soon as any app starts using your Mac’s camera or Microphone, Micro Snitch quickly alerts you by highlighting the Menu Bar icon or using a Screen Overlay at the bottom right. Moreover, it also maintains a log of all the times the microphone or camera was used, so even if you’re away from your Mac, you can always know what your Mac was up to. It has a really simple premise and it works great. Best 4 dollars your could spend right now.
Micro Snitch is especially useful because even though the Camera on your Mac has a green light enabled when it’s being used, there’s nothing for the microphone. This becomes very evident when you’re using Google’s Chrome browser, that’s built to hear the “OK Google” voice command from you. Even if you launch an Incognito Window, Micro Snitch detects your microphone is being used.
There are a couple of important points to note about Micro Snitch.
- Micro Snitch doesn’t know which app is using the hardware. This is from their FAQs.
Unfortunately, the underlying technologies in OS X that Micro Snitch builds on do not offer this information. We are in contact with Apple about this issue and hope that we can find a way to add this functionality in a future version of Micro Snitch.
- Compatibility — There are some Macs and USB accessories that Micro Snitch has trouble working with and displays a warning to you.
That said, Micro Snitch is still something we highly recommended. It’s available at $3.99 on the Mac App Store or for €3.99 directly from their website. If you want to try the app out, there’s a Free Demo version available that works for 3 hours.