Over at Slashdot, Theodp writes:
On Tuesday, the USPTO granted Apple an odd patent on Techniques to Pollute Electronic Profiling, which presumably might concern the targeted ad revenue-hungry folks at Google, Facebook, and LinkedIn (and their investors). The patent, apparently assigned to Apple from Novell, is designed to thwart ‘dataveillance techniques from automated Litter Brothers,’ including lawful targeted and aggressive marketing tactics. Creating cloned identities that are ‘intentionally populated with divergent information [e,g., fake phone numbers, email accounts, credit or debit card accounts],’ explains the patent, ‘circumvents the reliability and usefulness of dataveillance used by network eavesdroppers and effectively provides greater privacy over the network to principals.
I’ve had a small project collecting dust for the past year which would allow you to swap personas with a click. In an iTunes-like interface, you could create and maintain fake selves, activate them (which would switch out browser caches and cookies), and append data to them (birthdays, logins, etc). The app was more of a thought experiment and I eventually lost interest.
This patent from Apple takes the idea further, distributing the work of curating and propagating a fake identity over the network. Imagine: Apple could use that identity to automatically ‘browse’ the web, accumulating history, cookies, and collecting marketers from a virtual machine. On your phone, you could swap in this persona from within your settings, transfer over the cookies, and perhaps even proxy through an IP used by your fake self. I imagine Apple would use a phone booth type animation as they assemble your virtual alter ego.
Or the system could just check out junk cookies from a server and fire them off like decoy flares, rendering you as a 60-year old dub-step listener to inquiring marketers.