Apple has obtained a patent for a rather intruiguing idea: protect your privacy by spreading personal data that are partly correct, but partly incorrect.
The idea to have a cloning service create a doppelgänger with, for example, your birth data and hair colour, but with other interests - say basket weaving. This service would make search queries and click on results, click on ads, fill out surveys, chat, send emails and place orders, all in your name. A smart cloning service could fool companies like Google and Facebook and contaminate the profiles they keep of you to the point of making them useless.
The inventor, Stephen Carter, explains in the patent filing why we need such a doppelgänger generator:
Users are growing uncomfortable with the amount of information marketers possess today about them and many feel it is an invasion of their privacy even if the marketing is currently considered to be lawful […] The electronic age has given rise to what is now known as thousands of ‘Little Brothers’, who perform internet surveillance by collecting information to form electronic profiles about a user not through human eyes or through the lens of a camera but through data collection.
But wait - isn’t that a description of what Apple does? It has already been speculated that Apple hasn’t acquired the patent to launch a product to frustrate trackers, but to prevent others from launching such a product. Or perhaps Apple wants to sabotage the business model of Google and Facebook, while continuing tracking people through their iPhones. In any case, Apple seems to think it’s possible that Carter’s idea might work.
Meanwhile, tech site the Register wonders about the practical aspects of the invention:
All we know for sure is that it’s going to be quite weird when basket-weaving kits that your anti-surveillance cloneware has ordered on eBay start arriving at your house.