Frequently Asked Questions
Q: What does “permanent” really mean?
After you follow the instructions to “freeze” the app (i.e. set it as a device owner app), the Android system does not allow the app to have its permissions revoked or for the app to be uninstalled. This means that the camera will be disabled with no way to re-enable it.
This is almost as effective as physically destroying the cameras on the phone, although technically there are ways to use the camera again:
- Reset the device to factory settings. This wipes all accounts, apps, and data from the phone. However, note that the app disables the simple way of factory resetting the device, and the more complicated way has not been tested with the app.
- If you’ve rooted your phone, you may be able to use root access to bypass the security restrictions and re-enable the camera.
(And, of course, you could buy a new phone.)
Q: Why would someone want this?
There are a number of situations where it’s useful to have a device without a working camera (and where the user is not able to re-enable it):
- Individuals may want to avoid having a working camera for various personal reasons, like self-control or to establish trust.
- Parents or guardians may want to restrict their children from using the camera.
- Corporate/enterprise environments sometimes disallow cameras. This app and approach may (or may not) be acceptable proof that your phone does not have a working camera. In other situations, it’s better for an IT department to come up with a more robust solution. See the How it Works page and the GitHub repo if you want to develop a similar technical solution.
There are also some reasons to disable the camera, even if it’s reversible:
- Disabling the camera prevents any possible spyware apps from using the camera.
- Disabling the camera can sometimes fix software issues, like your phone taking pictures in your pocket.
Q: What if I only want to temporarily disable my camera?
If you disable the camera through the app, but don’t follow the instructions to “freeze” the app, then the camera will be disabled temporarily. To re-enable the camera, revoke the device administrator permissions for the app.
There are also other apps on the Play Store that disable the camera temporarily, and some of them have more features.
Q: Why can’t I add users after installing the app and following the instructions?
Android’s mechanism for disabling the camera only disables it for the current user. That means that, if you could add other users, you could add a new user to effectively re-enable the camera. To stop this approach, the Permanently Disable Camera app restricts your permissions so that you cannot add other users.
Q: Can I use this approach to permanently install other apps?
Yes, any app that’s a Device Administrator app can be set as a device owner by following the instructions.
You’ll need to change the line
adb shell dpm set-device-owner com.disablecamera/.AdminReceiver
to use the app’s package name instead of
com.disablecamera and the app’s
device admin receiver class instead of
Q: Why is there a “Device may be monitored” message on the notification shade?
The Android system always displays this message whenever there is a device owner app set, and there doesn’t seem to be a way to remove it. The message warns about the possibility of monitoring, but the app does not do any monitoring; it only disables the camera. You can verify this by reading the source code.
Q: Are there any known issues when the camera is disabled?
- In Android 5.0, disabling the camera also disables the flashlight. This appears to be fixed in Android 6.0.
- Older versions of Google Hangouts would crash when trying to join a call. This issue appears to be fixed in the latest version.
If you’re worried about issues with apps that you use regularly, you may want to try using your device for a while with the camera temporarily disabled before following the instructions to disable it permanently.
Q: I got an error when trying to run the
adb command. What does it mean?
Here are some common errors:
java.lang.IllegalStateException: Trying to set the device owner, but device owner is already set.
This error means that some app is already permanently installed (possibly Permanently Disable Camera, possibly some other app). An Android device can only have one app permanently installed in this way.
java.lang.IllegalStateException: Not allowed to set the device owner because there are already some accounts on the device
This error means that you need to go to the “Accounts” section of the Settings app and remove all accounts first. See step 4 in the instructions for more details.
java.lang.IllegalStateException: Not allowed to set the device owner because there are already several users on the device
This error means that you need to remove all users on the device except the primary user. See step 4 in the instructions for more details.
Q: I changed my mind and want to un-disable the camera. Can you help with that?
Sorry, no. Your best option is probably to do a full factory reset of your device, or to buy a new device.
Q: What if I have trouble with these instructions or have other questions or feedback?
Feel free to email firstname.lastname@example.org.