This is a prototype for a privacy shutter for the built-in type of webcams on computers, laptops and even tablets. I know, a piece of tape or a post-it note might serve as well, but it was a fun and inexpensive project to make. Most of the materials, depending on how you are stocked, should be available around the house or shop. This shutter prevents unintentional capture of images: i.e., accidental or through spyware/malware that may try to use your camera without your knowledge.
Step 1: Tools and Materials
- A small piece of thin plastic sheeting (I used an old plastic credit/membership card)
- Super Glue
- Double sided adhesive tape (I used a type with thin foam in between the adhesive sides)
- X-ACTO or other sharp utility knife
- 3/8" Electric drill
- 5/16" to 3/8" drill bit
- a small punch (a small nail or screw could serve as well)
- a hammer
- a pair of scissors or kitchen shears (able to cut through the plastic)
- two small clamps to secure pieces while applying the glue
Step 2: Cutting the Pieces
This drawing shows the basic pieces needed, as cut from a standard size credit card, using a pair of scissors. The oval shaped holes show the location of the aperture. The best way to make sure that these holes will line up, is to first cut out the pieces as shown. Then stack the pieces marked "Front" and "Back" on top of each other and drill two holes (either 5/16" or 3/8") beside each other. Then use your sharp knife to trim the holes to the oval shape that is shown. Drill the hole for the shutter, prior to cutting that piece, that way you don't have to try to cut a half circle with the X-ACTO knife. Be sure to cut the shutter and the filler piece as close to the same width as possible and as accurately as possible, so that the rails will allow the shutter to slide smoothly.
Step 3: Assembly
Glue the parts together in the following order:
1) Back piece with rails and filler stacked on top of it. Use the shutter to help align the rail spacing, BUT DO NOT GET ANY GLUE on it - use the glue sparingly and apply from the outer edges to minimize glue in the rails (area where the shutter needs to slide). I used the clamps to hold the rails in place till the glue was dry/set.
2) With all the previous parts securely glued in place, place the shutter in the rails, and make sure is moves back and forth freely.
3) Glue the front in place, on top of the rails and filler, lining up the hole in the Back. Again, take care with the glue, you can be a little sloppy at the "Filler" end, but extra careful not to get glue anywhere near the shutter.
4) Place a piece of doubled sided tape on the back. Choose whatever type you need for your system (depending on whether you have a rough or smooth surface to mount the shutter).
Step 4: The Final Product
That's it, just place the privacy shutter assembly in front of the camera/webcam where you want to use it. In the example photos it's mounted on my wife's iMac.
Step 5: Lessons Learned
As this was only a prototype, there are some things that became obvious in the early stages, that would improve the next version:
1) Thinner plastic would be better, so something like Mylar (with just enough thickness for some stability).
2) Black or a very dark brown or blue would be best, to reflect less light.
3) The hole or aperture of the shutter assembly needs to be either slightly larger (go with at least 3/8") or, with the thinner material, it can be positioned closer to the surface of the computers camera to avoid vignetting.
4) One other thing, some computers may need other cutouts for microphones or special sizing depending on where the camera is located. Also, some computers may use the camera or another sensor nearby to detect light for screen brightness adjustments, just FYI in case the screen dims every time you close the shutter.