Video-based awareness tools increase familiarity among remote group members and provide pre-communication information. Low-cost iconic indicators provide less but more succinct information than video images while preserving privacy. Observations of and feedback from users of our video awareness tool suggest that an activity sensing feature along with a variety of privacy options combines advantages of both the video images and iconic indicator approaches. We introduced the activity sensing feature in response to user requests. It derives activity information from video images and provides options to control privacy and improves the usability of video-based awareness tools.