Mossberg’s Mailbox

Sneaky Apps and Quiet TV Watching

Published on October 22, 2013
by Walt Mossberg


I was surprised to see updates for some of my favorite apps say they can access my camera to take pictures or video at any time without my permission. Can they really take pictures or video from my camera?


I wouldn’t use any app that could trigger the camera without your knowledge or at least implied consent each time. An app might legitimately be using the camera for tasks like scanning bar codes or business cards. But even so, it should be obvious and allow you to decide what to do. And if the app is one that should never need the camera, but says it wants to do so, don’t use it.

Apple says it flags and rejects apps that use the camera without stating that the camera is part of the app’s functionality. Google doesn’t curate apps in advance and apps’ disclosures are generally stated all at once in a dense page at download.


I like the TV on at night, which drives my wife crazy. Is there a device that would attach to the TV and use Bluetooth to wirelessly send the audio to a set of earbuds so the main speakers could be muted?


You can buy these either as just a transmitter or as a set that includes headphones — though I haven’t tested any of them and can’t recommend a model. One example is the Clear Sounds CLS-CS-Qlink Stereo TV Transmitter, which sells for $41 on Amazon. But be aware that with this or similar products, you may need an added-cost cable adapter to fit your TV’s audio-out jacks.

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