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Method and System to Increase Data Privacy on Displays Shared by Two or More Devices

IP.com Disclosure Number: IPCOM000021320D
Original Publication Date: 2004-Jan-13
Included in the Prior Art Database: 2004-Jan-13
Document File: 3 page(s) / 219K

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The basic idea of our method is to display documents onto the large display with all the private information (names, dates, numbers) in a non-readable format, such as blurred or blackened. The overall structure and layout of the document is preserved and identifiable on the large display. To access the private information, the user employs a smaller, more private display such as the display of a handheld computer. By selecting one of the blurred parts of the document with the handheld, the user gets the private information loaded into the smaller display, in a readable form. To select a specific part of the text, the user can point to it with the handheld; touch the corresponding area with the handheld, hands, or a device; select from a list on the handheld monitor; or any similar selecting method. In a more specific scenario where the larger display is a map of an environment or the diagram of a process, icons can be used to identify people and places instead of names or numbers. The icons associated to each person or place may be known to the user but not known to most people, therefore providing more privacy. In another embodiment, the visual aspect of the icons can be generated randomly, as requested by the user's handheld computer, and a legend identifying the real person or place associated with the icon is shown only on the handheld display.

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Method and System to Increase Data Privacy on Displays Shared by Two or More Devices

There are many practical situations where a computerized device can use the display of another computerized device to enhance or simplify user interaction. For instance, a user with a handheld may want to display information onto a higher resolution display, to improve readability. However, different displays provide different degrees of protection for private data. A PDA or handheld display, given its size and proximity to the user's face, provides normally reasonable protection from other people in the environment for the data displayed on it. If the same data is displayed on a bigger, higher-resolution display, the data may be observable and readable by other users in the environment. Our invention describes methods and techniques that allow greater data privacy on information shown on large displays, especially when combined with a low-resolution private display. Common solutions for the problem involve the use of head-mounted displays. Such displays provide a very high degree of privacy, but are cumbersome, and in some situations, dangerous to be worn.

Two basic principles are behind the invention. The first is the fact that small displays (under 2 inches wide) are almost unreadable by anyone except the person handling them. Given that the small distance from which they are normally read (around 12 inches) also limits the maximum ammount of pixel resolution that can be distinguishable by human eyes, an interesting option to allow for greater resolutions is to use displays available in the environment with larger sizes and display resolution. However, normally these displays can be read by other people besides the user, raising issues concerning the privacy of the data displayed.

The second principle behing the invention is the observation that most documents contain very few parts which actually contain private information. By hiding or masking specific parts of the document, such as names, dates, and similar fields, it is possible to create versions of the document that can be viewed by other people without disclosing private information. Text labeling technology can be used to automatically detected the private fields.

The invented method combines the two principles by displaying a masked version of the document on the less private display and allowing the user to access the masked contents on the more private display. In most practical cases, the less private display has more resolution than the more private display, enabling the user to have a general picture of the structure of the document without disclosing private data.

Figure 1 shows a particular embodiment of the invention where an e-mail application is projected on a table, with all private fields blurred beyond recognition. The figure also shows a PDA application that allows the user to view the actual content of the masked fields. Since the PDA is hold close to the user's face, t...