When I first talked about the Lockscreen Policy app, it was in the context of removing the annoying lockscreen widgets from the Nexus 7. It still works quite well for that, but I recently found another feature of the app that either was recently added or simply wasn’t present (sensibly enough) on the Nexus 7: The ability to disable the lockscreen camera feature of Jelly Bean.
While many people like the idea of being able to access the camera from the device’s lockscreen, I’ve never found it very useful. Most of the time, I can unlock my device quickly enough with face unlock, and the camera icon is in the main launcher dock. Of course, that wouldn’t be reason enough to get rid of the lockscreen camera, but potential security concerns are. Over the weekend, some friends “rescued” my Nexus 4 when I absentmindedly left it on a table during lunch, and returned it to me shortly thereafter. They weren’t able to get into the device because I have face unlock enabled, but they were able to access the camera easily and take over 400 pictures in the span of a few minutes.
That wouldn’t be a big problem, except for the fact that I have Dropbox instant photo upload enabled over mobile data, meaning that all these new images quickly began to eat up my bandwidth. Fortunately, I use a T-Mobile unlimited plan, but only the first 5GB are at “4G” (HSPA+) speeds, so excessive bandwidth use could cause at least mild annoyance. Of course, were I on a tiered plan from AT&T or Verizon, a situation like this could have put me over my data cap and cost me money, something those taking the pictures probably wouldn’t intend to do, but could easily happen anyways. The obvious solution is to disable instant upload over 3G, but I value having my pictures almost instantly backed up and stored in the cloud over easily and quickly accessing my camera from the lockscreen.
As such, I was happy to find out that the Lockscreen Policy app I already had installed could also disable lockscreen camera access. Removing the feature does make the camera slightly slower to open, but it prevents the slight security problem posed by the lockscreen camera. While the above scenario may be very specific and unlikely, there are other situations where the lockscreen camera loophole could be abused, for example if a colleague at work decided to take some inappropriate pictures with your device out of spite. Obviously, the best way to keep a mobile device secure is not to let it out of your sight (or pocket), but if you don’t really use the lockscreen camera feature, disabling it couldn’t hurt and may prevent a breach of security.