Apple files for a lot of patents and owns north of 3,000 (not counting those acquired via the “Rockstar” shaming of Google). Most of them are never incarnated into an actual product. I’ll occasionally glance at the reporting of the meticulous Patently Apple site if I find something particularly interesting. Today I read about an Apple patent that was just granted that is very interesting.
It’s basically a patent that would destroy Google’s business model.
“Techniques to pollute electronic profiling” is a fascinating read. It addresses the problem of what Apple calls “Little Brothers Dataveillance”. The practice, used by online marketing firms – and one particularly well-known Mountain View firm – involves gathering data about peoples’ online habits without their explicit knowledge to form a valuable identity. This identity is designed to be an accurate representation of a person’s vital statistics, their interests, and any other personally-identifying information that can be used – or sold, in Google’s case – for purposes such as targeted advertising.
Apple’s proposal is centered around the creation of a “clone”, an online identity with just enough of your personal information to fool the automatic information trolls into thinking it’s you. Mixed in with that information – manually or automatically – is a bunch of bogus data. The idea is that this mix of real and fabricated information creates a morass that is inseparable from you, but would be rendered worthless to the people looking to profile you – and therefore worthless to the people who’d want to buy that information to target you.
This patent is a continuation of the story Apple has been telling users about how it values their privacy, but it seems to go beyond that. Whereas Apple’s spat with publishers over the availability of user information for magazines was specific to their iBookstore, the “Anti Big Brother” patent extends beyond the Walled Garden and right into Google’s backyard. Apple was just granted a patent that could poison Google’s multi-billion dollar well.