HP’s new privacy feature blocks over-shoulder snooping


On a sunny summer day, the prospect of sitting inside a stuffy house to work on your computer may seem disheartening. This is where the convenience of laptops truly come into play.

But the luxury of coffee shop computing, or the efficiency of working on the train, comes with a bothersome downside – snooping. The gnawing feeling that someone is looking over at your screen and “visually hacking” you, as HP call it.

To combat snooping, HP has recently introduced a clever new technology, known as SureView. The optional privacy mode, which obscures the screen when it’s not being viewed from straight in front, is meant to darken the picture by 95 per cent when being viewed from wider angles.

This feature may not seem new to everyone. Various peripherals companies have developed stick-on privacy filters that do the same job, but the downside with these filters is that as soon as you stick them on, they’re on permanently. This makes for a darker laptop screen that is harder to view, even when no one is around to snoop.

The difference with HP’s SureView technology, which will be found in their EliteBook 840 and 1040, is that the integrated filter can be turned off and on, whenever you are feeling particularly screen-conscious, simply with a push of the F2 button.

The feature, which was developed in partnership with 3M, is thought to be especially useful in security conscious sectors. Patrick Moorhead, an analyst for Moor Insights & Strategy said: “With the glue-on filters, IT departments don’t actually know if you are using them. They may think they are managing security but they don’t know for sure if that filter is on.

“So to me this lowers the risk, because IT departments can program the laptops so that the filter is always on.”

Moorhead said the tech would be particularly useful “in environments of high security and high privacy such as healthcare, government, and even consultancy firms,” while adding that despite little research being conducted so far to measure the prevalence of visual hacking, “anecdotally I think it happens a lot”.