Apple Patent May Signal Future Without Prying Eyes

Apple is patenting technology that restricts snooping bystanders from viewing what’s on a computer or mobile device screen, in a move that would reduce prying eyes and boost privacy in situations where it’s critical.

The U.S. Patent & Trademark Office recently released details of the Cupertino, Calif.-based company’s patent for technology that could narrow a stream of light passing through a screen in such a way that only one person could see the display.

When such a privacy mode is enabled — by touching a dedicated corner of the screen to “change angle” — everyone not directly in front of a device, even those just off to the side, will only see a blank screen.

The patent doesn’t limit the technology to any particular type of device or screen, suggesting that Apple has intention of making wide use of it, not just for mobile devices but also computers and even nanotechnologies still in development. As with all patents, though, there’s no guarantee the company will ever make use of the technology. There’s also no guarantee the patent, still pending, will gain federal approval.

But if put into practice, such technology could help keep prying eyes off an iPad screen, giving the everyday user a greater sense of privacy. Even more significant, it could assist in business or educational endeavors where privacy is essential.

It could be incorporated into school computers, for example, preventing students from cheating by looking at a neighboring test-taker’s screen. And those in the legal or medical fields could review sensitive or confidential documents in public with a bit more ease.

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