Google AI tech alerts you when strangers peek at your phone

Google researchers demonstrate a new feature that could protect you from snoopers looking at your phone over your shoulder in public.

Marguerite Reardon Former senior reporter
Marguerite Reardon started as a CNET News reporter in 2004, covering cellphone services, broadband, citywide Wi-Fi, the Net neutrality debate and the consolidation of the phone companies.
Marguerite Reardon
2 min read

Google researchers are working on a new feature that could help stop strangers from snooping over your shoulder.


Google is working on a new security feature that could protect against strangers stealing glances at your phone over your shoulder.

The "Electronic Screen Protector," developed by Google researchers Hee Jung Ryu and Florian Schroff, uses artificial intelligence and facial recognition to alert you when someone else is looking at your screen. The new feature, which is still being worked on, was demonstrated in a YouTube video post in September.

The tool is designed to protect you from corporate spies or nosey strangers stealing sensitive data from your smartphone screen in crowded places. The feature appears to use the phone's front-facing camera to detect if someone else is looking at your phone. It then alerts you that someone might be snooping.

In the example in the video, when a stranger's gaze is detected as the phone's owner types a text message, the screen automatically switches to the front camera and uses a giant rainbow to point to the stranger's face. When the stranger looks away, the screen turns back to the text messaging app.  

In our increasingly mobile lifestyles, everyone from CEOs to interns find themselves working on the go from their phones . People may be checking email or other sensitive corporate information in public. And this feature could help protect that data from being glanced at by the wrong sets of eyes.

The researchers plan to present their technology at the 2017 Neural Information Processing Systems (NIPS) Conference in Long Beach, California, in December. Google hasn't announced plans integrate the functionality in its software. The company wasn't available for comment. 

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