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Microsoft proposes gadget feature disabling tech

'Please switch off your mobile' enforcement

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

Depending on your point of view, it’s either intensely annoying when someone uses their phone in a train’s quiet zone, or very annoying when you’re in one and want to use your phone.

Microsoft has made itself mediator and hopes to patent technology to ensure that if you shouldn’t be using a gadget in a certain place – then you physically can’t.

Microsoft’s brainwave is called Device Manners Policy (DMP) and it could ensure that if a sign says “No photography allowe”, then your camera or your phone's camera won’t work. DMP could also be used to block phones from receiving incoming calls during a meeting.

DMP isn’t designed to stop you using every feature on a particular gadget, just those that aren’t allowed at a certain location. For example, although incoming calls may be blocked during meetings, you might still be permitted to play Snake on the sly.

However, Microsoft seems unsure of how to best to implement such a draconian system and, according to the patent application, it’s considering several possible methods.

For example, a library’s network could connect to your device, by Wi-Fi or RF, and link the gadget to a server that supplies commands about what functions are and aren’t allowed in the library.

If the server connects to a mobile phone, for example, then the server may block the handset from taking pictures and receiving calls, while still allowing it to surf the internet using the library’s Wi-Fi network.

In another example, devices must first accept DMP rules before they are allowed to access any services. Accepting these rules would allow a server to connect to the gadget and block it from providing certain functions.

Microsoft DMP technology may sound simple in theory, but Register Hardware’s sceptical about the implementation of such services.

For example, Microsoft could add DMP compliance into Windows Mobile, but would Nokia do the same? If Kodak implemented the technology into its compact cameras, how would it affect the price of snappers? The British Library may stump up the cash to stop people photographing its books, but would Virgin pay for the required technology to ensure that all quiet zone customers really are quiet on every single train?

More information about Microsoft’s DMP patent application is available online here.

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

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