Apple just issued a serious MacBook warning — what you need to know

MacBook Pro 16-Inch
(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

Apple has a pretty stark warning for owners of its MacBooks that value their privacy enough to install camera covers. It turns out such modifications could well end up damaging the screen — and it’s a widespread enough problem that Apple has published a support document to warn its customers of the risks involved.

“If you close your Mac notebook with a camera cover installed, you might damage your display because the clearance between the display and keyboard is designed to very tight tolerances,” Apple writes in the document, first spotted by MacRumors.  

It certainly can, as the picture of a cracked 16-inch MacBook Pro above, originally published on Reddit, demonstrates. But Apple has other reasons to recommend users don’t cover their cameras, too: “Covering the built-in camera might also interfere with the ambient light sensor and prevent features like automatic brightness and True Tone from working,” the page continues. 

“As an alternative to a camera cover, use the camera indicator light to determine if your camera is active, and decide which apps can use your camera in System Preferences.” The camera is engineered so that it can’t be activated without the light indicator coming on, meaning that you should always know if somebody is sneakily accessing it without your knowledge.

This MacBook cracked screen was apparently the result of a camera cover

(Image credit: koolbe/Reddit)

If you don’t trust the engineering solution, or if your employer mandates it, Apple does have some tips to ensure you can cover the camera without risking serious damage. You should use a cover that is “not thicker than an average piece of printer paper” or, if that’s not possible, remove it before closing your MacBook lid. You should also avoid covering the camera with anything that leaves a sticky residue, for obvious reasons."

Why would you want to reduce functionality by covering your laptop’s camera anyway? Well, because it’s theoretically both a privacy and security risk, open to hijacking by cybercriminals, which is why the former head of the FBI advocated covering cameras back in 2016. If you’re worried about the surveillance power of companies, it probably won’t help your paranoia to note that Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg covers his, too.   

So it’s probably a good idea to cover your webcam, but just make sure you do it safely. The cost of not doing so can be extremely high, as the Reddit victim above explains. If the buyer didn’t have AppleCare Plus, the repair would have cost $1,970 CAD (~$1,550) and taken up to three weeks. You have been warned...

Alan Martin

Freelance contributor Alan has been writing about tech for over a decade, covering phones, drones and everything in between. Previously Deputy Editor of tech site Alphr, his words are found all over the web and in the occasional magazine too. When not weighing up the pros and cons of the latest smartwatch, you'll probably find him tackling his ever-growing games backlog. Or, more likely, playing Spelunky for the millionth time.