Privacy Sprint in Leipzig

Fernsprechamt
Entrance to the sprint location

Our three main goals for the general direction we want to take KDE in the next couple of years are: Top-notch Usability and Productivity for Basic Software, Streamlined Onboarding of New Contributors, as well as Privacy Software. The first sprint dedicated to one of our goals, Privacy Software, took place in March in the City of Leipzig. It took place in the former “Fernsprechamt” (telephone exchange), quite a fitting location when it comes to privacy, isn’t it?

Microphone Indicator

One of the features I worked on was a microphone tray icon indicating when the microphone is in use with an easy way to mute/unmute it by middle clicking as well as change the recording volume using the mouse wheel, just like you can with the volume icon.

Microphone indicator tooltip, "Microphone: Chrome input is using the microphone"
Microphone indicator showing that Chrome is recording

I had wanted this feature for quite some time but originally I had planned to add it to the task bar complementing our handy little audio indicator. However, when mapping a window to an application or audio stream fails, no indicator would be shown whatsoever. For some reason it occurred to me only during the privacy sprint that I could instead just use a global status icon which isn’t tied to a specific window.

Task bar showing a browser window with audio icon indicating the application is currently playing audio
One of Plasma’s many little productivity helpers: see at a glance who’s distracting you by playing audio

Not only is it a useful privacy tool, it also makes conference calls less painful since as soon as you join you can easily see that your microphone might be muted without having to open the volume applet first.

Notification Inhibitions

I also worked on the notification system and sent a proposal for a Notification Inhibition DBus procotol to the freedesktop mailing list. It will enable applications to suppress notifications similiar to how they can disable the screen saver or standby mode. Applications like Okular, LibreOffice Impress, or OBS could then use this interface to disable notifications to avoid a potential privacy invasion when a chat message comes in while giving a presentation or live streaming.

More details on what you can expect from notifications in future Plasma releases will come in a future blog post.

4 thoughts on “Privacy Sprint in Leipzig”

  1. Very nice.

    It would be great if it were possible to disable notifications for a specific activity. For my presentations I use my own activity, which I prepare with a theme-specific background image and a folder-plasmoid with a folder containing all necessary files. And there are also some specific energy saving settings for this activity. I guess it´s a completely different approach against the DBus protocol for the applications, but it would be nice too.

    1. Being able to configure notifications on a per-activity basis is on my todo list but I decided against implementing it on the first revision. The project is very ambitious as it is and I’d first like to get a working version out and then extend it from there.

  2. Thank you very much for the Microphone Indicator!
    That’s very good for privacy.
    A Webcam Indicator would be very useful too.

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