Why Qualcomm believes its new always-on camera for phones isn’t a security risk

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One of the biggest new features of the new Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 chipset is the always-on camera. Yes, you read that right. The always-on camera on your phone.

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This means that your future smartphone – this chipset will likely be in many of the best Android phones of 2022 – will be able to continuously power its front and rear cameras.

The idea is that it will allow for innovations that mean you don’t need to touch your phone to activate it. For example, it could allow you to be able to unlock your phone when your hands are busy on a day.

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Qualcomm has cited other examples of how certain apps can introduce security features through this new technology.

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One demonstration showed how an app can track other faces in the front-facing camera’s view, so it can detect if someone is looking over your shoulder when you’re viewing personal information or entering your banking details. being or not.

Although it has use cases, it will worry some users when it comes to potential security risks. According to Qualcomm, this is not a problem.

“It’s going to scare some people”

During its Tech Summit 2021 event, Qualcomm assured customers that they have handled it in a sensible manner.

Judd Heap, VP of product management in Qualcomm’s camera, computer vision and video departments, told Nerdshala: “The always-on aspect is going to scare some people so we wanted to do it responsibly.

“The low-powered aspect where the camera is always looking for a face is without ever leaving the sensing hub. All the AI ​​and image processing is done in that block, and that data isn’t even exportable to DRAM. .

“We took great care to make sure no one can grab that data and so no one can see you through your phone.”

This means data from the always-on camera will not be usable by other apps on your phone or sent to the cloud. It should stick to this one area of ​​the phone’s chipset — which Heap is referring to as the sensing hub — to detect your face.

Heap continues, “We’ve added this specific hardware to the Sensing Hub because we believe it’s the next step in the always-on body of functions that are on the chip. We’re already listening, so we thought the camera The next logical step would be.”

We’ve seen always-on microphones in smartphones over the years to ensure you can open apps like Siri or Google Assistant without touching your device. It’s the same for him, but for the camera.

Separately, Qualcomm has confirmed that the camera cannot capture photos or videos through this element of the Sensing Hub on the new chipset.

Heap said, “It could be the introduction of really great security features. It could also potentially be something that means you won’t need your lock screen anymore. Your phone just knows the context at all times.” will take.”

For those concerned about always-on cameras, you may have to avoid handsets with Snapdragon 8 Gen1 SoC in them as Qualcomm is yet to confirm if this is a feature you will be able to disable.

“We will have some OEMs taking up the facility in this generation. There will be more in the next generation, next year.”

We do not yet know which phones will support this feature or how it will be implemented. We will have to wait till the launch event of handsets like Oppo Find X4, Xiaomi 12 and OnePlus 10 to know for sure how these manufacturers will use the always-on camera.

  • Why Qualcomm’s next flagship chip isn’t called the Snapdragon 898

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