#886: Stareware

Now that in-transit working is the norm and even sensitive documents need to be read or drafted when sitting beside strangers, the issue of confidentiality is taking on new importance. Today’s invention attempts to address the issue of such shoulder surfing, for low-level industrial espionage, using (apparent) screen reflectivity as a tool.

I sometimes find myself staring at the reflection of someone’s face in the window of a train, in a way that I wouldn’t ever stare directly at someone’s face. When they happen to look at my reflection, I tend to avert my eyes almost automatically.


Now imagine a laptop screen, made of low reflectivity material. Overlaid on the material you are working on, at either side of the screen, are two images of your face (one as seen by the passenger on your right and one as seen by the one on your left). Note that we work on screen with emotionally-neutral reflections present all the time and manage to ignore these pretty successfully.

When a neighbour begins reading material on your screen, they will suddenly become aware of your apparent reflection looking at them fixedly (perhaps with a frown).

Instead of using static images, the deterrent effect could be maximised by using a movie…in which you have recorded both occasional blinking and teeth baring. If you found yourself sitting next to someone particularly attractive, you could quickly load the movie of you smiling (to the correct side) and giving an occasional wink.

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