Unauthorized access of webcams can present significant privacy issues (see "Privacy" section below).In December 2011, Russia announced that 290,000 Webcams would be installed in 90,000 polling stations to monitor the Russian presidential election, 2012.

Other popular uses include security surveillance, computer vision, video broadcasting, and for recording social videos.

The video streams provided by webcams can be used for a number of purposes, each using appropriate software: Most modern webcams are capable of capturing arterial pulse rate by the use of a simple algorithmic trick.

making them the lowest-cost form of videotelephony.

Despite the low cost, the resolution offered at present (2015) is rather impressive, with low-end webcams offering resolutions of 320×240, medium webcams offering 640×480 resolution, and high-end webcams offering 1280×720 (aka 720p) or even 1920×1080 (aka 1080p) resolution.

Improved video quality has helped webcams encroach on traditional video conferencing systems.

New features such as automatic lighting controls, real-time enhancements (retouching, wrinkle smoothing and vertical stretch), automatic face tracking and autofocus, assist users by providing substantial ease-of-use, further increasing the popularity of webcams.

Webcams have been used for augmented reality experiences online.

One such function has the webcam act as a "magic mirror" to allow an online shopper to view a virtual item on themselves.

By removing the IR filter of the webcam, IR LEDs can be used, which has the advantage of being invisible to the naked eye, removing a distraction from the user.