Chromebook Tablet HomescreenSource: Jeramy Johnson / Android Central

What you need to know

  • Google is working on a Chrome OS feature that will detect when other people are snooping over your shoulder.
  • The anti-snooping feature will apparently be powered by the Human Presence Sensor.
  • Chromebooks may pick up the upcoming privacy tool in early 2022.

Chromebooks are apparently gaining a new feature that will put shoulder surfers to shame. Google is developing a new privacy feature that will warn you when someone else is looking over your shoulder.

9to5Google discovered a new commit in the Chromium Gerrit that suggests Google is preparing to roll out a snooping protection tool as part of a test. The upcoming capability will be enabled via a new flag that will be available in Google Chrome. According to the flag's description, you can enable the privacy option in the Smart privacy section of your device settings.

It appears that the feature relies on the Human Presence Sensor, which cropped up in the Chromium Gerrit earlier this year. At the time, it was initially thought to be a face unlock feature, similar to the human presence detection capability found on many Windows laptops.

The most recent discovery demonstrates that this is not the case. The anti-snooping tool will use the camera on your Chromebook to determine how many people are looking at your screen. If it detects someone looking over your shoulder, it will display an eye icon in the status bar to alert you to the situation. You can also have your screen dimmed automatically to hide your activity from the snooper. Chrome OS may also temporarily disable notifications to protect your privacy.

To address user privacy concerns, the footage will be processed locally rather than sent to Google's servers. The feature is likely to be available on some of the best Chromebooks that support the upcoming Human Presence Sensor.

The new feature could be a useful tool against shoulder surfing, a type of social engineering technique in which snoopers look over your shoulder to obtain personal information such as passwords and other confidential data. However, it is possible that you will have to wait until 2022 for it to arrive.