Apple Working On Privacy Tech to Make Shoulder-Surfing iPhone Screens More Difficult

Woman having a drink in a bar and using an iPhone Credit: illustratsiya / Shutterstock
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Don’t you hate it when you’re using your iPhone or Mac and people try to look over your shoulder? Well, we have some good news. Apple is exploring a new display technology that will make shoulder creeping a lot tougher to pull off.

A report from AppleInsider shares a pair of newly granted patents that show Apple is working on a way to make sure that the person in front of their iPhone or Mac is the only one who can enjoy the content they’re viewing on their glorious Retina Display.

Currently, LCD and OLED Apple displays have a close to 170-degree field of view. This makes it easier for nosy folks to see what is being displayed on the device. This poses a problem for users in government offices and other organizations where privacy is held in high regard.

Apple has been researching ways to keep their screens high-quality but also keep whatever information is being displayed on them private. The pair of new patents reveal the different ways the company is approaching the problem.

One patent, simply titled Privacy films for curved displays, involves putting a polarizing-like film layer on the display. The light from the display panel can only be emitted in one direction, requiring the user to sit directly in front of the screen to enjoy the full brightness of the display.

Anyone attempting to view the screen from the left or right will instead see either a blurry image or will be completely blocked from seeing anything at all. However, this approach does not prevent someone from standing directly behind the user to view the display.

The second recently-granted Apple patent is called Displays with adjustable angles of view, and takes a different approach that doesn’t involve placing a layer of film over the screen.

Instead, the patent proposes altering the display’s viewing angle, apparently at will. The display would include what the patent describes as an “electrically controllable filter” to allow the user to control the polarization of the screen.

This patent involves integrating the privacy feature into the display itself, using a series of substrate layers.

The proposed solution involves display technology with an additional layer of liquid crystal inserted between the display’s polarizing layers. The liquid crystal layer would include a color filter, which would allow images with certain colors to be displayed only to the authorized user.

While this may seem a bit impractical, as it would not hide the entire screen from view, it is reminiscent of the olden days of classified paper documents, which were sometimes printed on specific color pages.

Of course, users are also responsible for protecting their privacy and should remain alert for looky-loos. Unfortunately, when a user becomes engrossed in their work (or the game they’re playing), they may not always be aware of folks looking over their shoulder or from another revealing angle.

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