Dell Hardware Privacy Support Slated For Linux 5.14
Written by Michael Larabel in Hardware on 28 May 2021 at 07:19 AM EDT. 6 Comments
HARDWARE --
Last year we wrote about Dell working on a hardware privacy driver for Linux as with 2021 laptops they are beginning to add hardware-based privacy buttons for disabling microphone and camera support. That Dell Hardware Privacy platform support is now set to be introduced to the mainline kernel with Linux 5.14.

With Dell 2021 laptops select models will begin having hardware-based kill switches for the microphone and web camera shutter assembly to physically block the web camera from capturing images/video. As part of this Dell Hardware Privacy is also ePrivacy screen support too.

Linux 5.14 is set to mainline this dell-wmi-privacy driver. While there are hardware-based controls, the capabilities of the system and current status are propagated through to the operating system to be aware of the current state. As summed up by the Dell engineer adding this driver to Linux, "add support for Dell privacy driver for the Dell units equipped hardware privacy design, which protect users privacy of audio and camera from hardware level. Once the audio or camera privacy mode activated, any applications will not get any audio or video stream when user pressed ctrl+F4 hotkey, audio privacy mode will be enabled, micmute led will be also changed accordingly The micmute led is fully controlled by hardware & EC(embedded controller) and camera mute hotkey is Ctrl+F9. Currently design only emits SW_CAMERA_LENS_COVER event while the camera lens shutter will be changed by EC & HW(hardware) control."

The support status of these privacy features are then exposed to user-space via sysfs so desktop environments or other applications can support making use of this information such as more informative reporting if recording applications are unable to access the microphone or web camera.

This Dell WMI Privacy driver (DELL_WMI_PRIVACY Kconfig switch) is queued as part of the x86 platform drivers "for-next" Git branch as of yesterday, thereby making it material for the Linux 5.14 merge window opening up in about one month time.
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Michael Larabel is the principal author of Phoronix.com 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 OpenBenchmarking.org automated benchmarking software. He can be followed via Twitter or contacted via MichaelLarabel.com.

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