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Re: HTML extension for system idle detection.

From: Bjoern Hoehrmann <derhoermi@gmx.net>
Date: Fri, 18 Sep 2009 03:34:47 +0200
To: Jeremy Orlow <jorlow@chromium.org>
Cc: Arve Bersvendsen <arveb@opera.com>, David Bennett <ddt@google.com>, public-webapps@w3.org
Message-ID: <tof5b5l8knngdboulimipg7uar2r23vl7g@hive.bjoern.hoehrmann.de>
* Jeremy Orlow wrote:
>As far as I know, there really aren't any.  This was discussed on WhatWG
>(before being directed here) and IIRC there were no serious security or
>privacy concerns.  The minimum resolution of the event makes attacks based
>on keystroke timing impossible.  Some people suggested that web apps could
>do something "bad" while the user is away, but I don't think anyone could
>come up with a good example of something "bad".  Can you think of any
>specific concerns?

If you consider a client-server instant messaging service, it is easy to
give three examples for why you would not want the server and peers be
informed whether you're currently interacting with the device the client
is running on out of "privacy" considerations.

If the peer's client indicates that you are using the system, then it is
common for peers to assume you are actually present and not merely cause
some activity every now and then (e.g., change the volume setting while
watching a movie, check on some activity while cleaning the house) and
to become upset if you do not respond. Similarily, you may be available
but do not cause system activity (e.g., watch a movie, but the client is
configured to interrupt the playback on receiving a message) and peers
are likely to incorrectly assume you are absent and not contact you.

You may also be present for all intents and purposes, but do not wish to
give some of your peers the impression you are (e.g., you may not wish
to attend to them that instant). Similar are finer grained notifications
of user activity like typing notifications. If the client transmits them
you may start typing in some message, reconsider, and then might have to
answer the peer's question what you wanted to say but did not.

Prolonged storage of this information also allows for analysis of beha-
vioral patterns; for example, if the user is rarely inactive for certain
periods of time, that is likely to be seen as an indication of a medical
condition such as a sleep disorder.

I believe there are plenty of users of instant messaging systems who
have turned off, or would turn off if they were aware of the option and
possible consequences, these kind of notifications for these and other
reasons, or adjust their behavior to avoid the possible consequences.
Björn Höhrmann · mailto:bjoern@hoehrmann.de · http://bjoern.hoehrmann.de
Am Badedeich 7 · Telefon: +49(0)160/4415681 · http://www.bjoernsworld.de
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Received on Friday, 18 September 2009 01:35:26 UTC

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