How the Dell SafeShutter Webcam Balances Convenience and Privacy

Video conferencing has become a staple for many – adding conveniences to our everyday work lives, but not without its share of land mines. Hilarious scenes from TV shows depict the embarrassing hazards of forgetting to turn off your webcam, while viral videos like the recent one featuring a lawyer whose filter was stuck on “cat” showcase the need for simple and convenient technology. From people walking behind us during video conferences, to permanently affixing a sticky note to our computer cameras, we worry about webcam privacy while we work. It doesn’t need to be this way.

We asked ourselves, can there be a balance between the convenience of seamlessly joining video calls with the privacy and the safety of knowing the camera is secure? This was our north star.

Enter SafeShutter, available on the new Latitude 9420 and 9520 devices. It’s the industry’s first automatic security webcam that knows when to automatically open or close by syncing to your video conferencing applications (if you give it permission), so you can work securely and confidently from anywhere.¹

Here’s the important part: though it connects to your video conferencing software, it lets you take control of your privacy with camera disable (F9) and mic mute (F4) keys to override software settings. Aimed against malicious surveillance and hacking, the keys provide extra assurance at the hardware level and offer additional security.

The process of designing this technology, while maintaining the Latitude’s premium design, was a challenge. As our Latitude screen borders (or bezels) get smaller and smaller, there is simply no room to put a mechanical camera shutter on them. In order to create a device that has a sleek look and feel, we didn’t want to place a switch on the side of the device. So, if the shutter control can’t go on the top or on the side, where do we put it? The team designed a new security-hardened, hardware-controlled circuit that is tied to the F4 and F9 keys. When you press a key, you can instantly turn the camera on or off, or hardware mute or unmute your mic. This means no fumbling and losing precious time turning off your video through the conferencing software, should the unexpected occur. A simple touch of the key will turn it off.

We all have had that awkward moment of talking while still on mute. Or worse, thinking our video was off when it wasn’t. In either scenario it is a simple case of human error. Here’s a fun fact about SafeShutter: an engineer accidentally created an audible “click” that lets you know the camera has closed. To keep your mind at ease, we’ve created a privacy LED light that turns on when the camera is in use, paired with the keyboard indicator lights that denote if the camera and audio are on or off – no sticky note needed.

Two Laptops with SafeShutter - Laptop on left has shutter open. Laptop on right, shutter closed.

With teams pushing for the convenience to more easily join calls and other teams pushing for privacy and security, I’m incredibly proud that we were able to deliver on both. With SafeShutter available on the industry’s most secure commercial PCs, combined with AI-based features that provide intelligent background noise-cancelling, auto-mute and smart connectivity features (like ExpressConnect, that prioritises bandwidth to your conferencing apps to prevent dropped calls) – it’s safe to say the Latitude 9420 and 9520 offer one of the best video conferencing experiences on a PC.

I’m not saying unwanted guest appearances from toddlers or pets won’t ever happen to you. But if it does, you’ll be able to confidently and securely stay in control.

The Latitude 9520 is available today on Dell.com. The Latitude 9420 will be available this Autumn 2021.

¹ Based on Dell analysis, November 2020.

About the Author: Meghana Patwardhan

Meghana Patwardhan is a product management executive with over 13 years of experience in product strategy, definition, go to market and operations. She currently leads the Latitude line of business for Commercial Client Solutions at Dell Technologies. Previously, she led the Precision workstations product management team and the Latitude Product Planning team. She holds an undergraduate degree in Computer Science from UT Austin and a MBA in Marketing from the Kellogg School of Management, Northwestern University. In her spare time, you can find her cooking, playing board games, traveling or hiking with her husband and two kids.