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Quickview: Road Warrior Advisors--Keep Your Data Private

Protect your client and business information by hiding it from wandering eyes.

Bill Winterberg, 01/30/2014

I travel quite extensively for business, whether I'm visiting clients or speaking at conferences. Because I spend quite a bit of time on the road, I'm always looking for ways to be productive and get work done whenever I can, including while in flight.

Just as I'm doing now, I write a lot while I'm 30,000 feet in the air, including my columns for MorningstarAdvisor.com. But when I composed my Best Technology of 2013 column, I was concerned the passenger in the seat next to me might take a peek at my choices and leak them to the world on social media.

So in my list to Santa Claus, I asked for a privacy film I could install over the screen of my laptop.

On Christmas morning, I unwrapped a thin, letter-sized package that held the contents of a black 3M Laptop Privacy Filter for my 11" MacBook Air. Don't tell Santa, but I know that the filter retails for about $27 on popular Internet retail sites. Larger filters for laptops and desktop monitors are priced between $22 and $90.

There are two ways to install the privacy filter. First, you can use the included double-sided adhesive to attach the film to the screen. According to 3M's instructions, the filter "can be repositioned hundreds of times," which I assume means applying and removing the filter repeatedly without degrading the adhesive.

Second, the filter comes with a set of plastic adhesive tabs that can be arranged around the edges of the laptop screen. This allows the filter to be inserted between the tabs and held in place over the screen without using any adhesive strips on the screen itself. For easy application and removal, I opted to install the tabs.

Once installed, the privacy filter works as advertised, allowing private viewing inside roughly a 60-degree angle, without noticeably affecting the clarity of images on the screen. The filter does reduce overall screen brightness, so increasing brightness to compensate for the filter will decrease overall battery life, but I haven't noticed a significant difference over one month of periodic use.

One minor gripe I have is that 3M printed its logo and product number in the upper right-hand corner of the filter, positioning it over my status bar icons for WiFi, volume, and battery level. When I glance at those icons, I find it annoying to refocus my eyes in an attempt to ignore the 3M logo. However, this is the way you know the filter is installed for maximum privacy. When the filter is installed backward, screen privacy is reduced, but image clarity increases. In either orientation, the filter obviously protects the screen from dust, dirt, and finger smudges.

Bill Winterberg, CFP, is a technology and operations consultant to independent financial advisors. His comments on technology have been featured in a variety of financial industry publications. You can view more information about Bill and see his schedule of upcoming speaking engagements at his Web site, FPPad.com. The author is a freelance contributor to MorningstarAdvisor.com. The views expressed in this article may or may not reflect the views of Morningstar.

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