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Privacy on parade

3M Privacy Filters for monitors, laptops, tablets and smartphones address the security risks posed by visual hackers carrying out targeted or opportunist attacks as well as shoulder-surfers like you or I who might be tempted to sneak a peek at the screen of a neighbour on a train.

Micro-louvres within the filters give an uninterrupted view of the screen in a central 60° arc but make it impossible to view content from the right or left. Anyone looking at the screen from the side sees a completely black or gold screen depending on the type of filter being used (see below).

The needs of the user mean that 3M Privacy Filters are only a partial solution, arguably more effective at thwarting nosy neighbours than a professional snooper who in certain environments, such as on a train, would surely be able to position him or herself to get a good view of the screen.

But even this has a benefit, and 3M’s tagline ‘Privacy is the best policy’ is surely the right approach for today’s increasingly mobile workers, even before you factor in additional benefits of all 3M filters, including an antiglare coating, protection from dust and scratches and a 35% reduction in harmful blue light transmission.

Broad choice
Overall, 3M has more than 200 different sizes and types of privacy filter, including ultra-thin filters (in black and gold) that don’t impact a computing device’s touch functionality and edgeto-edge styles specially designed to fit the exact shape of an Apple Macbook or Microsoft Surface device.

We tried a 15.6 inch Dell laptop (with bezel) with an entry-level Black Privacy Filter; a Gold Privacy Filter for high resolution displays that is claimed to provide 30% greater clarity than the black version; and a High Clarity Privacy Filter that offers exceptional image clarity and maintains touchscreen functionality.

Flexible attachment
Each pack contains a frameless privacy filter (the Gold version also includes a screen cleaning cloth), attachment instructions and a choice of three attachment methods:

1 glue strips that stick the filter to the screen;
2 slider tabs that, when fitted to the sides and bottom of the screen, make it easy to slide a filter in and out of  place; and
3 the new COMPLY attachment system consisting of adhesive hinges that attach the filter securely to the top of the screen/bezel and an adhesive side tab that lets you lift the filter up and down without the risk of fingerprints. COMPLY is available in four versions to fit most laptop sizes and displays (flatfront and bezel) and can be retro-fitted to existing privacy filters.

COMPLY is a great addition to the range that minimises the downsides of privacy filters, such as noticeably reduced screen brightness (this can be partially offset by adjusting brightness settings); some loss of sharpness due to the anti-glare coating (negligible with the High Clarity Privacy Filter); and the difficulty of sharing on-screen information with others when you want to do so.

These drawbacks were not severe enough to impact my largely word processing-based workload and are a small price to pay for data security, but they do increase the likelihood that users will take off the filter and revert to normal settings at the first opportunity.

3M expects its filters to be used in this way – even its glue strips can be removed and reapplied hundreds of times – but warns that constantly taking filters off increases the risk that they will be lost or forgotten and not available when needed.

COMPLY’s hinges resolve this problem by enabling users with flat-screen laptops to flip the filter up and over the back of the screen when they want to share their screen with people to the side or watch a movie without reduced brightness or sharpness, thus eliminating the need to detach the filter fully.

COMPLY is less effective for users with bezel laptops. Because the hinge attaches to the bezel above the screen rather than to the top of the laptop, the filter can only flip through 180 degrees, not 360 degrees. That said, the angle of the screen means that even then the filter should remain out of the way in a vertical position.

If you have found reasons not to use a privacy filter in the past, COMPLY could be just what it takes to change your mind.