The Linux Kernel & GNOME Desktop Preparing For Privacy Screen Support
Written by Michael Larabel in Hardware on 14 April 2021 at 01:11 PM EDT. 27 Comments
HARDWARE --
Over the past year there has been an uptick in Linux developers from different vendors working on laptop privacy screen support under Linux. When it comes to the support with newer Lenovo ThinkPad laptops, it looks like that kernel support could soon land and the GNOME desktop is already preparing to support this feature.

Select Lenovo laptops in recent years have offered a built-in "Privacy Guard ePrivacy Filter" for limiting the viewing angles of the laptop with a simple push of a button on the ThinkPad laptops. While the effectiveness of the "ePrivacy" feature is debatable in its current form and with the current work from home craze / limited travel making the feature less pressing at the moment, the Linux support is coming together.

Last year there were initial Linux kernel patches for bringing up the privacy screen support for Lenovo laptops with necessary ThinkPad ACPI driver changes and also infrastructure for the Intel kernel graphics driver.


While that work was sent out months ago and reviewed well, it was held up by the lack of any user-space software making use of the new kernel interface around privacy screens. Fortunately, since then, GNOME has begun preparing support for the "ePrivacy" privacy screen.

There is work pending to Mutter, the GNOME Settings Daemon, and GNOME Control Center for handling the DRM property and feature on capable systems. There are patches for the functionality on the GNOME side and to show an on-screen display when the privacy button is pressed and related helpers around toggling and displaying the current state.

Thus Red Hat's Hans de Goede has re-sent the kernel patches now that there is a working user-space "client" of the privacy-screen class.

Those newest kernel patches can be found on intel-gfx and the hope is all these patches will be sent in by way of DRM-Misc. Long story short, the Linux desktop is preparing to offer better support for privacy screens on capable laptops (initially Lenovo ThinkPads, but Dell has at least been working on similar Linux support too) and for now on the GNOME desktop but hopefully other desktop environments will begin preparing similar support for the proposed DRM properties.
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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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