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Camera phones “a threat to privacy”

London based Privacy International are recommending that a mandatory flash be built into every camera phone so that “illicit photography” can be prevented.

Now, I’m very intreiged as to what kind of photography one can get up to with a camera phone that can be classed as “illicit”. Taking a photo of a random stranger in the street isn’t illegal. Using a telephoto lens to take photos inside someone’s private property is “illicit”, but I’m not aware of any camera phones on the market with long range telephoto lenses (let me know if you know different!)

UPDATE: Since writing this article, I understand that typing “up skirt” in Google will provide some (mainly Japanese) links which are representitive of “illicit camera phone photography”…

Ok, enough of the fun… on a serious note I do find it very annoying when organisations who are claiming to be representing people’s best interests come up with ideas that are based on little real understanding of the issue and the technology surrounding it.

Passing some kind of law that meant that all camera phones had to have a flash on them would simply make this problem even worse. We’d all go about our lives thinking that if we didn’t see a flash then we weren’t being photographed. A thick sticker placed over the flash, a finger placed across the flash? All of these things could be used to obscure any kind of flash – giving even more discretion to those who are taking part in “illicit photography” (whatever that maybe).

How many shops do you see that do “phone repairs”? They don’t do phone repairs – how can a shady high street shop or market stall perform repair a highly sophisticated, highly miniturised piece of semi-conducter technology? These places do modifications, like network unlocking and changing the colour of your phone’s LEDs. Wouldn’t you agree that if everyone’s phone had to have a flash on it, the modification to go to the top of the list would be disabling the flash with a few crafty wire snips?

And finally, even if you do see a flash and you realise you’ve been photographed “illicitly”, what can you do about it? Chances are the person has run off by the time you realise anyway.

I won’t even go into the spam I seem to get regularly touting button-sized wireless spy cameras and receivers for £20-all-in. Maybe Privacy International will demand that they have a flash on them to? I’m sure the owners of the digital sweatshops in China that pump out these things will sit up and take notice.

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