Apple's hidden camera patents

I haven't even read 1984 but I know what a Telescreen is; a fictional-cum-real display that doesn't just show you images, but sees you, too. While this is clearly a useful device, not knowing whether you're being watched is a worrying possibility. And Apple Computer, self-appointed guardian of virtue, has not one or two but three patents designed to permit a display to watch the watcher.

The first patent involves concealing the camera behind a panel. These cameras could still be detected by disassembling the device and inspecting its contents, and as such will appear in any disassembly article. The second involves actually hiding the camera behind the display itself, requiring a specially-modified display panel and backlight. And finally, the real piece de resistance, and actually not the latest of these patents: A display whose image sensing elements are distributed throughout. With enough elements, focus and angle can be adjusted by simply sampling different elements. And even more worryingly, this sort of image sensor would be difficult for the user to detect, requiring very close inspection of the display, possibly with a microscope. Casual inspection of the display or even its contents would not reveal the presence of image sensor elements.

I understand that each of these inventions has utility, especially the two patents involving hiding the camera in or behind the display. Covering the camera when it is inside the bezel or case, by contrast, can "improve" the "style" of the device but simultaneously deprives users (or passersby!) of the knowledge that they are being recorded to no necessary end, unless that end is nefarious.

Am I proposing that we are currently being watched, unwittingly, by our seemingly-ordinary LCD monitors and laptop displays? Of course not. But the technology does exist to perform this type of surveillance without the user's knowledge or consent.

Add new comment

Default

  • Use [fn]...[/fn] (or <fn>...</fn>) to insert automatically numbered footnotes.
  • You may link to images on this site using a special syntax
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • To post pieces of code, surround them with <code>...</code> tags. For PHP code, you can use <?php ... ?>, which will also colour it based on syntax.
  • Internal paths in single or double quotes, written as "internal:node/99", for example, are replaced with the appropriate absolute URL or path. Paths to files in single or double quotes, written as "files:somefile.ext", for example, are replaced with the appropriate URL that can be used to download the file.
  • Filtered words will be replaced with the filtered version of the word.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.
  • Allowed HTML tags: <a> <em> <strong> <cite> <code> <ul> <ol> <li> <dl> <dt> <dd> <blockquote> <q>

Issue

  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.
  • To post pieces of code, surround them with <code>...</code> tags. For PHP code, you can use <?php ... ?>, which will also colour it based on syntax.
  • Allowed HTML tags: <a> <em> <strong> <cite> <blockquote> <code> <ul> <ol> <li> <dl> <dt> <dd>

Drinking Game

  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Allowed HTML tags: <a> <em> <strong> <cite> <code> <ul> <ol> <li> <dl> <dt> <dd> <img> <p> <br> <pre> <h2> <h3> <h4>
  • Images may be embedded like: [image:node_id align=alignment hspace=n vspace=n border=n size=label width=n height=n nolink=(0|1) class=name style=style-data node=id] Leave off any attributes you don't want.
  • [img_assist|...] tags will be displayed, maybe. Please don't make more of them.

Plain text

  • No HTML tags allowed.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.
CAPTCHA
This question is for testing whether you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.
Refresh Type the characters you see in this picture. Type the characters you see in the picture; if you can't read them, submit the form and a new image will be generated. Not case sensitive.  Switch to audio verification.