Amazon has been issued a patent on security measures that prevents people from comparison shopping while in the store. It’s not a particularly sophisticated patent—it basically detects when you’re using the in-store Wi-Fi to visit a competitor’s site and then blocks access—but it is an indication of how retail has changed in recent years.
What’s interesting is that Amazon is on the other side of this arms race. As an on-line retailer, it wants people to walk into stores and then comparison shop on its site. Yes, I know it’s buying Whole Foods, but it’s still predominantly an online retailer. Maybe it patented this to prevent stores from implementing the technology.
It’s probably not nearly that strategic. It’s hard to build a business strategy around a security measure that can be defeated with cellular access.
Posted on June 23, 2017 at 6:26 AM •
Apple applied for a patent earlier this year on collecting biometric information of an unauthorized device user. The obvious application is taking a copy of the fingerprint and photo of someone using a stolen smartphone.
Note that I have no opinion on whether this is a patentable idea or the patent is valid.
EDITED TO ADD (9/13): There is potential prior art in the comments.
Posted on August 29, 2016 at 6:27 AM •
There’s a new article on NSA’s Technology Transfer Program, a 1990s-era program to license NSA patents to private industry. I was pretty dismissive about the offerings in the article, but I didn’t find anything interesting in the catalog. Does anyone see something I missed?
My guess is that the good stuff remains classified, and isn’t “transferred” to anyone.
Posted on September 29, 2014 at 6:02 AM •
Former NSA Director Keith Alexander is patenting a variety of techniques to protect computer networks. We’re supposed to believe that he developed these on his own time and they have nothing to do with the work he did at the NSA, except for the parts where they obviously did and therefore are worth $1 million per month for companies to license.
No, nothing fishy here.
EDITED TO ADD (8/14): Some more commentary.
Posted on August 4, 2014 at 6:26 AM •
Here are all the NSA’s patents, in one searchable database.
If you find something good, tell us all in the comments.
Posted on August 1, 2014 at 6:54 AM •
One of the things I do is expert witness work in patent litigations. Often, it’s defending companies against patent trolls. One of the patents I have worked on for several defendants is owned by a company called TQP Development. The patent owner claims that it covers SSL and RC4, which it does not. The patent owner claims that the patent is novel, which it is not. Despite this, TQP has managed to make $45 million off the patent, almost entirely as a result of private settlements. One company, Newegg, fought and lost—although they’re planning to appeal. The story is here.
There is legislation pending in the U.S. to help stop patent trolls. Help support it.
Posted on December 2, 2013 at 12:48 PM •
It’s not a new idea, but Apple Computer has received a patent on “Techniques to pollute electronic profiling”:
Abstract: Techniques to pollute electronic profiling are provided. A cloned identity is created for a principal. Areas of interest are assigned to the cloned identity, where a number of the areas of interest are divergent from true interests of the principal. One or more actions are automatically processed in response to the assigned areas of interest. The actions appear to network eavesdroppers to be associated with the principal and not with the cloned identity.
A device-implemented method, comprising: cloning, by a device, an identity for a principal to form a cloned identity; configuring, by the device, areas of interest to be associated with the cloned identity, the areas of interest are divergent from true areas of interest for a true identity for the principal; and automatically processing actions associated with the areas of interest for the cloned identity over a network to pollute information gathered by eavesdroppers performing dataveillance on the principal and refraining from processing the actions when the principal is detected as being logged onto the network and also refraining from processing the actions when the principal is unlikely to be logged onto the network.
EDITED TO ADD (7/12): Similar technology and concept has already been developed by Breadcrumbs Solutions, and will be out as a free beta software in a few months.
Posted on June 21, 2012 at 5:51 AM •
Patent application number 2011/023240:
Communicating Information in a Social Network System about Activities from Another Domain
Abstract: In one embodiment, a method is described for tracking information about the activities of users of a social networking system while on another domain. The method includes maintaining a profile for each of one or more users of the social networking system, each profile identifying a connection to one or more other users of the social networking system and including information about the user. The method additionally includes receiving one or more communications from a third-party website having a different domain than the social network system, each message communicating an action taken by a user of the social networking system on the thirdparty website. The method additionally includes logging the actions taken on the third-party website in the social networking system, each logged action including information about the action. The method further includes correlating the logged actions with one or more advertisements presented to the one or more users on the third-party website as well as correlating the logged actions with a user of the social networking system.
Facebook denies that this is a patent for that. Although Facebook does seem to track users even when they are not logged in, as well as people who aren’t even Facebook users.
EDITED TO ADD (10/24): Facebook claims that, while they do collect information on non-users, they don’t use it for profiling. This feels like hair-splitting to me; I get emails from Facebook with lists of friends who are already on the site.
EDITED TO ADD (10/24): It’s a patent application, not a patent.
Posted on October 24, 2011 at 6:42 AM •
Sidebar photo of Bruce Schneier by Joe MacInnis.