Friday, March 12, 2004

Hong Kong police deal with camera phone indecency cases...one a month

Hong Kong police since last year are dealing with one case per month of men taking indecent photos using camera phones, according to an article today in The Star Online.

The article reports the Hong Kong Department of Justice has issued guidelines for the police that permit them to charge serial offenders with a more serious charge of "outraging public decency."

The Star Online says a Hong Kong computer technician in a subway train station was caught taking camera phone photos up a woman's skirt. A passerby alerted the woman who was photographed.

The technician was caught by station personnel while "hiding" in an automatic teller machine deleting the photos. (Unless he was very, very short, I assume he was hiding in an ATM booth.)

Criminal charges

The technician was charged with, it seems, disorderly conduct.

Incidents occurring once a month? It doesn't seem like a big problem to me. Yes, I know these type of incidents will increase as the numbers of cellular phones increase, and it has been a problem in Japan.

But put in perspective, Hong Kong police have many more serious crimes to deal with.

Friday, March 12, 2004 in Privacy | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Wednesday, March 10, 2004

Hotels in Barbados pondering camera phone implications

Hotel managers in Barbados are pondering the ramifications of camera phones, although it's not a big deal, according an article in the Barbados Daily Nation. Some hotel managers are concerned that their staff could take photos of guests in compromising situations.

The article quotes one hotelier, who didn't want to be named, as saying, "“There are possible risks. People can use a camera in any kind of position they want, so can guests in the hotel....You know the two people may not even be husband and wife and they’re just hiding out and you will take their picture in [a] compromising situation."

One manager says he doesn't want to ban cellular phones because they are useful, but he's concerned about inappropriate use. He suggests that the Barbados Hotel & Tourism Association explore the situation.

Hmmm. I wonder if any hotel or tourism associations in the United States are looking into the ramifications of camera phones.

Wednesday, March 10, 2004 in Privacy | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Tuesday, March 02, 2004

Who should develop camera phone usage guidelines?

A quote in an article in iafrica.com about camera phones and privacy got me thinking about who -- individuals, organizations, government bodies, etc. -- should issue guidelines about correct usage of camera phones. A quote by a Motorola spokesperson, Alan Buddendeck, got me thinking.

Buddendeck says, "Motorola, like other companies, hopes its products would be used in ways that are legal, ethical and moral, but it's not for Motorola to issue guidelines for appropriate use. You expect consumers to use good sense and judgment, respect people's rights and comply with local laws."

If not Motorola, who? Other handset vendors? Cellular operators? Digital camera and wireless trade associations? Local government organizations? Corporations? Schools?

Start thinking or deal with the consequences

"Oh, no," says Motorola. "We just refine the plutonium. We don't need to develop any guidelines for how it's used after it leaves our factory." Okay, I'm being melodramatic here. But you get the point.

Corporations, schools, health clubs, even countries are banning camera phones. The wireless industry has been incompetent in addressing the "dark side" of camera phones. Indeed, it seems that every quote from a handset vendor or a cellular operator about this issue is along the lines of Buddendeck's.

Suggesting guidelines generates a dialogue. They're not written in stone. But no one in the wireless industry seems to be doing much, except to speak in platitudes. While the industry sits on its hands, others are posting regulations and passing laws.

Tuesday, March 02, 2004 in Privacy | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Thursday, December 11, 2003

Another day, another article about banning camera phones: N.Y. Times

The New York Times today published an article about municipalities banning cellular phones and quotes government officials, lawyers and analysts. But what struck me was the article's lead, and how the cellular industry -- as I've been writing -- has been shooting itself in the foot.

Here's the lead: "'What grabbed my attention,' said Alderman Edward M. Burke, 'was that TV commercial when the guy is eating the pasta like a slob, and the girl sends a photo of him acting like a slob to the fiancée.'

"The commercial, for Sprint PCS, was meant to convey the spontaneity and reach afforded by the wireless world's latest craze, the camera phone. But what Mr. Burke saw was the peril.

"'If I'm in a locker room changing clothes,' he said, 'there shouldn't be some pervert taking photos of me that could wind up on the Internet.'"

Another commercial for the moron in you

I certainly understand why the cellular industry runs these commercials. They're trying to show the fun, crazy uses of camera phones. But these commercials also are showing the moronic uses of camera phones...and government officials are taking notice!

To be fair, who cares if someone takes a photo of a guy eating like a slob? It might be embarrassing, but this is not a national security issue! You can take the same photo with a regular digital camera, too, although you can't immediately send it.

I'm not going to suggest that the wireless industry shouldn't advertise the fun aspects of camera phones. But wouldn't you think that with all the money the handset vendors and cellular operators can spend on advertising and marketing, they would be able to come up with commercials that not only target the right demographics, but also wouldn't wave a red flag in front of people who want to ban phones?

Educate, educate

The article also highlights, once again, why I think it's so important for the cellular industry to promote the valuable uses of camera phones. Perhaps you wouldn't want TV advertisements promoting real estate agents, construction workers and "citizen journalists" using camera phones (then again, if you're going after business users, perhaps you might!), but the industry certainly should use other ways to get out the word.

The industry launches good products and then screws them up, often with onerous pricing or "walled gardens." With camera phones, the industry was surprised with the strong reactions by corporations and municipalities banning the device.

So instead of trying to highlight to value of camera phones, cellular operators are focusing on the lowest common denominator -- which isn't helping their cause with potential corporate users.

Catering to morons

What we're seeing now in some camera phones commercials is the moron factor. As a misanthrope who thinks the human race's collective I.Q. is barely above that of a slime mold, I understand that appealing to the "mass "market" sells products (as so-called reality shows, morning TV "news" shows and sports programming illustrate).

Indeed, as a wireless data consultant I help companies sell wireless products to the mass market! But the handset vendors and cellular operators have simply got to begin promoting the value of camera phones or they will face more criticism in the press and more government regulations.

The New York Times article notes that as early as December 17 the Chicago City Council might vote on Burke's proposal to ban camera phones in public bathrooms, locker rooms and showers.

Certainly there are places where you shouldn't be allowed to take photos; there are legitimate privacy and security concerns. But what we're seeing in some jurisdictions and hearing from some corporations and analysts, is a sledge hammer approach to banning phones.

Thursday, December 11, 2003 in Banning camera phones, Customer education, Marketing camera phones, Privacy, Security | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Sunday, November 30, 2003

Detroit News reports on good and bad effects of camera phones

The Detroit News today (Sunday) posted a fairly long article about the good and bad effects of camera phones. I'm quoted and the reporter, Karen Dybis, said I was one of the few people who are defending camera phones! My comment is she hasn't spoken to enough people.

In Detroit, General Motors bans camera phones at its Tech Center in Warren, Mich. because it doesn't want employees taking photos of new automobile designs, the article says. Oakland (Mich.) County judges have banned camera phones in courts because they want to protect the identity of undercover cops and jurors.

The article also reports that a chain of health clubs has banned camera phones in its five clubs, although I'm not sure if that refers to phones just in the locker rooms or in the entire club.

Good and bad of camera phones

I provided the reporter with lots of information about the value of camera phones as well as the dark side. Dybis used the good examples I discussed and the "dark side" from other sources.

For example, she reports that one Detroit radio station encourages listeners to take camera phone photos of people with "mullet hairstyles, ugly outfits or working in drive-through windows" and posts the "winning" photos on the station's Web site.

Another example is a Michigan government official who attended a concert of the heavy metal group Goldsmack and had to lock his camera phone in his truck or it would be confiscated. Goldsmack didn't want any cameras in the audience.

Borders Books is beginning to ask authors who are speaking about their books before an audience in the store whether they mind camera phones, Dybis reports.

Sunday, November 30, 2003 in Banning camera phones, Privacy, Security | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Tuesday, November 11, 2003

Should your camera phone be required to make a noise when taking a photo?

Should the government require handset vendors to ensure that every time you take a photo with your camera phone there would be a warning noise? It could come to that in the United States, as it has in South Korea.

From picturephoning.com I learned the Korean government has mandated that all new camera phones next year must make "loud sounds" when a photo is taken. The article in The Korea Times reports that the regulation, established by the Ministry of Information and Communication, won't affect existing camera phones in Korea.

The Ministry decided not to ban cellular phones in public places, such as swimming pools and health clubs, because of legal concerns.

Privacy, "digital shoplifting"problems

Men in Korea have been arrested on suspicion of taking "voyeuristic" photos of women on subways and streets, the newspaper reported. Also, the largest bookstore in Korea, Kyobo, is watching customers to ensure they don't take photos of pictures in books and magazines.

I wrote about this trend in Japan, where the term "digital shoplifting" was first coined. (At least, that's where I first read about it.) The Japan Magazine Publishers Association and the Telecommunications Carriers Association have been complaining that snapping photos in magazines without purchasing them is "information theft."

I've said this before, draconian measures dealing with camera phones will get worse before everyone calms down and looks at the reality of the situation.

Tuesday, November 11, 2003 in Privacy | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

It's time to begin intensive customer education about camera phones

With all the frenzy about banning camera phones, it's time -- right now -- for the wireless industry to begin educating consumers and businesses about the value of camera phones. I'm not talking about mindless PR drivel about the sweetness and light of snapping a photo of grandma, but about how camera phones can be really useful.

Take a look at the articles I wrote in the "Security" category. (I love TypePad's category feature.) Corporations want to ban camera phones even when there's no legitimate reason to do so.

Publicity barrage

In the relatively short time that camera phones have been available in the United States, there has been a huge number of articles in the press about privacy and security considerations. On October 31 the Pioneer Press for Minneapolis/St. Paul published an article headlined, "Health club locker rooms lock out phones."

The article leads with, "It's a health club patron's nightmare: Someone surreptitiously snaps a digital photo of said patron in a shower or locker room, then shares the snapshot far and wide via e-mail or by posting the picture on a Web site.

"The likelihood of this happening has dramatically increased in the past year or two as digital cameras have shrunk in size and become inconspicuous parts of everyday devices such as mobile phones." (By the way, the reporter has a good technology Weblog, Your Tech Weblog, which is hosted by TypePad.)

In just a few months, these sorts of stories have become cliches -- very bad cliches for the wireless industry.

A solution is education

The solution isn't to whine about the problem but to do something smart about it. I've been analyzing the wireless industry since 1978 and my business is to build wireless data businesses around the world. If you've got a problem with a product or service, you fix it, promote the good, admit and discuss the bad and provide enough information so people can make up their minds -- independent of hype and hysteria.

The immediate need for customer education about camera phones popped into my sluggish mind when I saw an entry about one of my posts by Stuart on his Henshall & Associates Weblog. Stuart writes, "Time to show the organizations all the good things photoblogs can do."

Absolutely. It's time to show corporations -- time to education them about -- the uses of camera phones. The wireless industry has done a remarkably rotten job of educating business users about the value of camera phones. The industry itself is still learning about business applications and many people involved in the retail side of camera phones are rather clueless about the potential for corporate use.

Starting the education process

Cellular operators and handset vendors, among others, need a section on their Web sites for businesses that discusses the value of camera phones. There should be examples of current and future uses in specific markets and specific applications. There are plenty of applications to discuss, as a start, covering a variety of markets, such as real estate, construction, journalism, meetings and conventions, and field service.

You also need to confront camera phone problems head-on. All too many executives want to ignore problems, thinking that if they make them public they'll only make the situation worse. There is a name for this type of attitude....moronic.

Camera phones can be abused, just like non-wireless digital cameras and all sorts of other products. You need to discuss the problem and suggest solutions. You need to write about what other companies have done.

Deal with it!

This issue isn't going to disappear. In fact, it's going to get worse before it gets better. It's one of the reasons I suggested it might be a good idea to create a camera phone association.

(If you're a wireless company or a corporation that needs to understand this issue and how to ameliorate the problems, feel free to contact me for consulting services.)

Tuesday, November 11, 2003 in Customer education, Marketing camera phones, Privacy, Security | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack