Laptop privacy filters guide 101

by Vincent Wee

Strong password and solid security technologies can help to keep your work data private. But these tools can’t stop someone from looking at your laptop screen or taking a photo of your work. Whether you are using your laptop for work or personal in a public space, you want to keep these prying eyes away and your data private. “Visual hacking” is a serious security threat because it is something that is hard to detect, track or prevent in public.

In 2015, both 3M and Ponemon researched on “visual hacking,” a method where hackers get usernames, passwords, and other private information by simply looking at people’s screens from across the room. The result shows that this low-tech method of hacking is very successful with up to 91% success rate.

Privacy filters are a low-cost method to save you from any form of “visual hacking.” They are adhered to your screen and can severely restrict its viewing angle, such that the screen is only visible by someone sitting directly in front. If other people are trying to sneak a peek from the sides, they will see a blank, black screen. That’s why they’ve become a must-have for work professionals and privacy seekers alike.

How does privacy filter work?

Laptop privacy filters guide 101 - How does privacy filter work
The different viewing angles of a privacy filter

Laptop privacy filters are essentially polarization filters, similar to the filters that are found in polarized sunglasses. Basically, it works like vertical blinds in your home on a much smaller scale. If you’ve ever installed vertical blinds in your house, you will know that you can only see through them at a certain angle. In this case, they prevent certain wavelengths of light from going in certain directions, therefore it only allows you to see what’s on your screen, but not the weirdo next to you at Starbucks.

Why you need a privacy filter?

As mentioned earlier, “visual hacking” has a big impact on your work and personal space. You are simply telling people around you what you are doing and giving them a chance to obtain sensitive information about you. The need for a privacy filter will depend on your work habits. Frequent travelers and professionals that like to work in public places are particularly susceptible to “visual hacking”. People working in customer service and sale positions are also very open to “visual hacking” due to their proximity to customers.

It takes just a matter of seconds for someone to obtain confidential information from your screen, which could potentially be used for malicious intent. The risk is even higher given the fact that many smartphones come with high-quality cameras, making it easier to take a quick photo without being noticed.

How to choose an ideal privacy filter?

Image clarity: As privacy filter acts as a way to block some light from the laptop screen, it will also make the screen slightly dimmer. A high clarity filter can help to allow you to see your screen clearer without a need to bump up the screen brightness. Offsetting dimming by turning up the screen’s brightness will also diminish your laptop’s battery life. 3M Golden Privacy Filters are clearer than black screen filters, making it easier for you to see what you’re doing in certain lighting conditions. They also help to reduce blue light exposure by up to 70%.

Application: There are multiple ways that a filter can be applied onto your screen. Some filters provide double sided tape that provide a snug fit to secure it directly onto the screen. Others come with tapes on the extended tabs that allow you to slide your filter in and out of the tabs which gives your more flexibility.

Size: Privacy filters come in all sizes. It is important to correctly measure your screen to find the right-sized product for your device. Here is a quick guide from 3M.

Finishing: If you’re stuck between choosing a matte privacy filter and a glossy privacy filter, you’ll be happy to know that some brands offer filters in reversible. One side matte, and the other glossy, such as the Akamai Office.

Compatibility: Some laptops in the market are touch-screens, therefore you want to make sure your privacy filter does not hinder the functionality of your device. The Adaptix privacy filter is a privacy filter that won’t affect your laptop’s touch-screen capabilities, so you can feel free to tap away.

Color: Privacy filters are availble mainly in black but it can come in different colors as well. Gold filters are more expensive than black because they won’t dim your screen as much but they are reflective thus making them hard for people who work outdoors.

Price: The cost of privacy filters ranges between US$20 and US$50 each, depending on the size and model.

What’s next

After reading all these, you should understand why a privacy filter is so important for you and your laptop. So, stop thinking and start buying the appropriate privacy filter for your laptop by using the above guide.

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