Cell phones may be nearly ubiquitous in today's world, but the number of people who have adopted proper cell phone etiquette (or gadget etiquette in general) often seems to be far smaller. Microsoft has filed for a patent (patent application 2008/125,102) on technology it feels could address such situations via the use of what the company refers to as a "digital manners policy," or DMP for short. The patent abstract states:
DMP-equipped devices would be capable of receiving and applying DMP "orders" given to them by an appropriate broadcast device. The wording of the patent implies that such broadcasters would be short-ranged and/or physically restricted. A cineplex, for example, might use DMP to automatically shift all cell phones into "vibrate" mode while they are inside the theater. In cases where cell phone broadcasts could potentially interfere with delicate equipment, such as while aboard an airplane or inside a hospital, DMP could order the phone or device to drop into sleep mode or otherwise deactivate itself. Once the individual leaves the relevant area, the device would function normally. [...]
The patent application itself may only have been recently published, but it's already come under attack from some privacy advocates who fear it's nothing more than DRM masquerading under a different name. Upon review of the actual patent, this type of stance seems unnecessarily alarmist. While the DMP system Microsoft describes might theoretically be used to completely block or unnecessarily restrict device access, switching phones to "vibrate" mode or disallowing photos while in a locker room do not seem to qualify.