Dell Adding Hardware Privacy Driver For Linux

Written by Michael Larabel in Hardware on 4 November 2020 at 07:30 AM EST. 43 Comments
Beginning in Dell's 2021 laptop models they are providing hardware-based "privacy buttons" to disable microphone and camera support. In preparations for more Dell laptops coming to market with these buttons, a Dell privacy driver is being prepared for the Linux kernel.

These new Dell privacy buttons are basically hardware kill switches for the microphone and web camera video stream. The Dell privacy driver sent out on Tuesday for the Linux kernel is about manipulating the relevant LEDs and tracking the status of the hardware-based controls where as the actual toggling of the audio/video support is handled by the hardware.

The Dell privacy driver in its current form is talked about for the camera and microphone support but the patch does also note a "PRIVACY_SCREEN_STATUS" bit as well. Presumably they will be extending this privacy driver as well for privacy screen handling around reducing the horizontal/vertical viewing angles of the display. That's similar to Lenovo's PrivacyGuard and privacy screen code being worked on by Google with Intel Chromebooks.

The dell-privacy Linux driver in its initial form can be found via the kernel mailing list. It's great seeing Dell working on this driver punctually for Linux ahead of their next-gen laptops.
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Michael Larabel is the principal author of and founded the site in 2004 with a focus on enriching the Linux hardware experience. Michael has written more than 20,000 articles covering the state of Linux hardware support, Linux performance, graphics drivers, and other topics. Michael is also the lead developer of the Phoronix Test Suite, Phoromatic, and automated benchmarking software. He can be followed via Twitter, LinkedIn, or contacted via

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