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On December 11, 2014, the US Patent & Trademark Office published a patent application from Apple that reveals future iDevices with a novel content redaction engine and tool. The content redaction engine of some embodiments determines whether to redact content for output based on whether a user is biometrically verified. If they are, the redaction is removed as noted in our cover graphic.


Apple's Invention: Using Biometric Verification to Grant Access to Redacted Content


Apple's invention provides an electronic device with a novel content redaction engine. The content redaction engine of some embodiments determines whether to redact content for output based on whether a user is biometrically verified. That is, when the content redaction engine receives verification data indicating that the user is biometrically verified, the device displays content without any portion redacted. On the other hand, when the content redaction engine does not receive such verification data, the device displays the content with at least a portion redacted.


The electronic device of some embodiments additionally includes a biometric reader and a biometric verification engine. The biometric reader reads a person's uniquely identifying biometric data (e.g., thumbprint/fingerprint, iris scan, voice, etc.). This biometric information is then read by the biometric verification engine for comparison to a stored set of verified user biometric data. When the biometric data matches the stored data, the person is verified.


The content redaction engine of some embodiments includes an interface with the biometric verification engine that allows the redaction engine to request whether the biometric reader is currently receiving verified biometric data. When the biometric reader is currently receiving verified data, the content redaction engine displays content without redaction. In some embodiments, as soon as the biometric reader is no longer receiving verified data (e.g., as soon as a user removes her thumb from a thumbprint reader), the content redaction engine redacts for display any content marked as redacted. That is, there is no grace period during which the content is displayed without redaction after the biometric reader stops receiving the verified biometric input.


When redacting content for display, different embodiments perform the redaction differently. For instance, some embodiments either blur redacted content or use a black bar over the redacted content, while other embodiments do not display the redacted content. Some embodiments use different redaction methods in different situations.


Furthermore, various different embodiments include different situations for when to redact content. Some embodiments redact messages displayed in a locked-screen mode of the electronic device until verified biometric data is received.


When an iPhone or other iDevice is in lock-screen mode, the phone can display notifications of incoming messages, such as e-mails, short message service (SMS) messages, etc. The notifications may include some or all of the content of the message. In some embodiments, the content redaction engine redacts (e.g., via blurring, removal, etc.) the message content from the display unless verified biometric data is received. Thus, a non-owner of the device who does not have permission to view the messages will not have the ability to do so, while the owner of the device can view her messages without the requirement of unlocking the device.


Apple's Content Redaction Engine



Apple's patent FIG. 12 noted above conceptually illustrates the software architecture of an electronic device that includes a content redaction tool, content redaction engine, and biometric verification engine.


Apple's Content Redaction Tool



Apple's patent FIG. 8 noted above illustrates the use of a redaction tool to redact content on an electronic device.


In addition to the content redaction engine, some embodiments include a content redaction tool that allows a user to specify content of a document (e.g., an e-mail, text message, PDF document, etc.) for redaction. With the tool, the user can select portions of content within the document (e.g., specific text, images, etc.) that the tool marks for redaction. Thus, the document in some embodiments stores data indicating which portions have been marked for redaction.


In addition, the user may specify permissions, such as different contacts that may view the redacted portions. When an electronic device (either the device on which the content was redacted, or a different user's device) displays the document, the content redaction engine of the device determines whether to display the redacted content based on a combination of the redaction permissions and biometric verification data.


Patent Credits


Apple credits Byron Han, Craig Marciniak, Andrew Whalley and Matthew Shepherd as the inventors of patent application 20140366158 which was originally filed in Q2 2013. Considering that this is a patent application, the timing of such a product to market is unknown at this time.


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