Technology giant Apple, most famous for its iPhone smartphone models, has filed a patent for screen technology designed to thwart anyone other than the person holding the device being able to see what is being displayed. The patent, which covers ‘gaze dependent display encryption’, is for technology that is described as blurring or jumbling the words on a screen, warping or changing the colour of images.
The patent described the result of the functionality as maintaining privacy without alerting onlookers that the device’s user was making an effort to do so:
“In this way the user’s privacy is protected without distracting the user and without indicating to others that private information is being displayed.”
The technology would use facial recognition and eye tracking to understand what part of the screen the holder of the device is looking at while obscuring the rest to possible onlookers. The move indicates the new focus on personal privacy that tech giants are now starting to take and would put an end to the feeling many users of smartphones have of being spied on by nosey parkers in public places.
The patent was filed back in September but only came to light this week. Apple and other major tech companies do, however, file numerous patents and many of them never reach commercial use. The patent describes how existing privacy screen technologies must be mounted over the usual screen of a device and are “typically bulky, separate devices that must be carried with the electronic device, mounted to the device when privacy is desired, and can be easily forgotten or lost”.
Existing technology is also deficient in that it is not effective in the case an observer is placed directly behind the user. Apple declined to comment when asked if the privacy screen technology might find its way into new iPhone models released in coming years.
In a less positive development for Apple, the company has been hit by a €1.2 billion fine by French regulators. It was judged that the company had broken the country’s competition law in a manner that amounted to price fixing by preventing discounting of its devices. Apple is appealing the ruling.
The European country’s watchdog found that Apple had been guilty of anti-competitive behaviour through a secret deal with two key distributors of its products. The EU and EU countries have been at the forefront of international efforts to limit the power of the largest tech companies. Google, also currently in an appeals process, has already been fined more than €8 billion for three separate breaches of EU anti-trust rules.
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