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Apple Seeks Patent to Force Users to Watch Advertisements

In a quiet move which some call anti-user, Apple is seeking a patent for technology that would lock up devices until users demonstrate that they had viewed advertisements. Last year, Apple filed an application with the U.S. Trademark and Patent Office which was made public last month, that could change how consumers are able to use the devices they own.

The patent filed is for technology to display advertising on computers, phones, televisions, media players, game devices and other consumer electronics (practically anything with a screen). The technology then commands user attention by freezing or locking up the device on which the advertisement is displayed until the user demonstrates they have watched the ad by clicking buttons or answering questions. The system also accounts for music players by inserting commercials that come with an audible prompt to press a particular button to verify the listener’s attentiveness.

It’s suggested that the technology would be embedded into the core of the device, making it so that the advertisements could be displayed anytime, anywhere. It is also suggested that this form of advertising could reduce prices on products or may enable them to be offered for free. Users would then have an option to pay to make the device “ad free” for limited times or on a permanent basis.

According to the New York Times, “What the application calls the “enforcement routine” entails administering periodic tests, like displaying on top of an ad a pop-up box with a response button that must be pressed within five seconds before disappearing to confirm that the user is paying attention.

These tests “can be made progressively more aggressive if the user has failed a previous test,” the application says. One option makes the response box smaller and smaller, requiring more concentration to find and banish. Or the system can require that the user press varying keyboard combinations, the current date, or the name of the advertiser upon command, again demonstrating “the presence of an attentive user.”

It is unclear whether or not Apple has concrete plans to utilize this technology in any of their devices.