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Commentary

Should Camera Phones Be Required To 'Click'?

Here's an interesting tidbit. A new bill has been put before Congress that would require camera phones to make a noise or "click" whenever they are used to take a picture. The idea is to make it clear to everyone in the vicinity that the camera phone is being use as a camera. Is this really necessary?
Here's an interesting tidbit. A new bill has been put before Congress that would require camera phones to make a noise or "click" whenever they are used to take a picture. The idea is to make it clear to everyone in the vicinity that the camera phone is being use as a camera. Is this really necessary?Lawmakers hope to thwart picture-taking evil-doers.

The Camera Phone Predator Alert Act "requires any mobile phone containing a digital camera to sound a tone whenever a photograph is taken with the camera's phone. Prohibits such a phone from being equipped with a means of disabling or silencing the tone. Treats the requirement as a consumer product safety standard and requires enforcement by the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC)."

Wow.

I am sure the lawmakers who wrote the bill are thinking of protecting children, and that's laudable. But is this the right way to do it?

Most phones I've tested that have cameras make noise when they take a picture. Users have to actively disable that sound. Many people don't bother. Same goes for point-and-shoot cameras. Most of them make a clicking noise when firing a shot. You have to go into the user settings if you want it to be quiet.

The prevalence of cameras in phones -- and the ability to silence them -- has surely led to those with a proclivity for taking advantage of people to do so. My mother, a school teacher, has told me how teens are using them to take inappropriate pictures of others in the bathroom and/or locker room at school. We've already seen reports on how teens use camera phones to take naughty pictures of themselves and then send them on to a boyfriend or girlfriend.

In a business setting, it is well known that cameras are not allowed in many work environments. Employees and/or visitors are sometimes required to check cell phones / cameras upon entering certain buildings or areas of buildings due to the risk that proprietary information -- or privacy -- may be compromised.

I've seen people attempting to take pictures on the sly many times, whether it be in bars, at trade shows, or wherever.

If camera phones are required to make a sound loud enough so everyone in a reasonable distance can hear it, it might cut down on the amount of abuse, but it won't change human nature.

Editor's Choice
Sara Peters, Editor-in-Chief, InformationWeek / Network Computing
John Edwards, Technology Journalist & Author
John Edwards, Technology Journalist & Author
James M. Connolly, Contributing Editor and Writer