Saturday, March 13, 2004

Associated Press reports how camera phones help catch criminals

An Associated Press article reports how camera phones are helping to catch criminals. Although many of the examples already have been reported in the press, including in Camera Phone Report, one example is of a Georgia woman who snapped a photo of a man who exposed himself to her.

The article says when Lisa Johnson saw a man exposing himself she didn't call 911. Instead, she snapped a photo with her camera phone.

The photo helped police track down the man, who was a former high school principal. He was arrested and charged with public indecency.

Snap, don't hit

Johnson, who lives in Alpharetta, Ga., about 20 miles north of Atlanta, says, "I had my hand in my pocket, and rather than hit him and break my phone, I remembered there was a camera."

She notes, "I guess I was just quick on my toes." Quick on the shutter, actually!

Crime-fighting device

AP mentions the case of a 15-year-old Clifton, N.J. boy who used his camera phone to snap a photo of a man in a car who solicited him as well as taking a photo of the car's license plate. The man was caught the next day.

Capt. Robert Rowan of the Clifton police department likes camera phones. He says in the article, "It's an excellent improvement in the technology. Everyone has them with them all time."

Rowan notes, "You have sort of a crime-fighting device on your person at all times."

Familiar sources

Two sources are quoted who might be familiar to those of you reading camera phone Weblogs: Emily Turrettini of and I.

Saturday, March 13, 2004 in Security | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Sunday, March 07, 2004

Lawyer ponders whether new company camera phone regulations are needed

Commenting on Gartner's recommendations that corporations should develop policies for camera phones, employment law specialist Tom Potbury says existing corporate policies might be sufficient for dealing with camera phones.

Commenting in, a legal Web site created by the Masons law firm, Potbury says if an employee uses a camera phone to compromise security or confidentiality, "normal disciplinary measures can be applied as they could be if a member of staff were copying sensitive documents with a photocopier."

Potbury says new technology doesn't necessarily require new regulations and "most complaints or cases of misuse can be dealt with using existing disciplinary procedures."

Continued debate

It's good the establishment of policies for camera phones are beginning to foster intelligent debate, rather than the Luddite recommendations for outright bans for all corporations.

Society will establish norms for camera phone use just as it establishes etiquette and policies for other technologies. It will just take a while for things to work out.

Sunday, March 07, 2004 in Security | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Wednesday, March 03, 2004

Gartner recommends education not bans for camera phones in business

Gartner, Inc. says camera phones could pose a security threat to corporations but recommends that companies provide education to employees rather than completely banning the devices, according to a press release issued today. The consulting firm notes that there are many other consumer devices besides camera phones that could pose threats.

Hear! Hear! Finally there's a report from a consulting firm that doesn't advocate draconian measures.

Gartner says by 2006 more than 80 percent of cellular phones shipped in the United States and Western Europe will have cameras, so corporations need to "implement security programs that can realistically be managed."

Realistic policies

Gartner suggests that corporations ban camara phones in specific areas but allow them in other locations, making sure that employees understand the security policies.

Ken Dulaney, the vice president of research at Gartner, says camera phones aren't the only potential danger. He notes, for example, that USB "drives" -- some of which have built in cameras -- and the new DVD burners could create problems by, I assume, enabling employees to easily steal large amounts of corporate information.

"Any company policy directed at camera phones should be widened to address the transfer of information from enterprise environments to consumer devices in general," Dulaney says.

That's a good point. Corporate executives are becoming paranoid about camera phones and they are, to coin a phrase, mising the forest for the trees.

Wednesday, March 03, 2004 in Security | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Monday, March 01, 2004

Paranoid Academy Awards security stops French journalist from moblogging

In another instance of a brain-dead security policy, French freelance writer Emmanuelle Richard Welch was stopped for using her cameraphone to take photos of the Academy Awards ceremony last night, according to an item I saw in However, she did manage to fire off several good shots on her Buzznet moblog.

Although I'm all for appropriate security measures, stopping Welch from taking camera phone photos is pure stupidity. As film and digital camera snapped thousands of photos and broadcasters interviewed stars outside and inside the theater, Welch was singled out.

Why? Here's what she writes:

"Unfortunately I had to stop moblogging after a while because a security person kindly told me camphones were forbidden and would be confiscated. I complied so no more pics!

"Funningly, regular cameras are OK, but not camphones or PDAphones because... by moblogging you could tip off terrorists!! I thought the terrorists would watch TV if they really wanted to know what's going on - I just hope they're nowwhere near."


Welch hits the nail on the head. Terrorists could get a much better overview of the real-time situation at the Academy Awards by watching television. It's one more illustration of how techno-dolts determine security policies.

I guess we need cameras with wireless capabilities -- either built-in wide area radios to transmit directly or Bluetooth radios that could transfer photos to a cellular phone for transmission -- to foil this type of inappropriate security policy.

Monday, March 01, 2004 in Security | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Saturday, February 28, 2004

U.K. company creates encryption for camera phone photos

Silicon Village Mobile in Birmingham, England has introduced a software package that encrypts camera phone images, according to an item in RCR News. While most people don't need encryption, the company notes that industries such as healthcare, law enforcement, finance and law are concerned.

I can't find a "Silicon Village Mobile" URL, but the company's flagship encryption product, Fortressmail for e-mail, has a Web site. A more detailed report notes that the software package, Fortress Suite, includes FortressMail and Fortress SMS-M.

Fortress SMS encrypts text messages and the "M" feature indicates encryption of camera phone photos. Encrypted MMS messages can be sent handset-to-handset, without the involvement of a cellular operator.


Fortress Suite will work on, I believe, only Symbian OS-based phones, such as Nokia and Sony Ericsson.

However, camera phones photos can be transmitted to computers using Windows (no mention of Mac), but the software works with common e-mail/Internet protocols, including POP3, IMAP, SMTP, ESMTP and X400, so I assume it will work with just about any computer OS (but I have not confirmed this).

The Suite's price starts at 89.99 pounds and 135 Euros ($170).

Saturday, February 28, 2004 in Security | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Friday, February 27, 2004

Korean election commission solicits camera phone users to deter election fraud

From comes this fascinating story about the South Korean National Election Committee (NEC) promoting the use of camera phones to help prevent fraud during April 15 elections in the country.

Here's what reports:

"The National Election Commission (NEC) will run a hotline center around March 15 and camera phone owners can report any illegal activities by taking snaps of the actual scene.

"According to one mobile internet service on Friday, NEC plans to make this coming election the cleanest and the most impartial one in Korea’s general election history by operating a mobile internet service called '415 Mobile Station' that receives reports of illegal election campaigns from cell phone holders.

"If this hotline center is put into operation, camera phone owners can take pictures of the illegal election campaign on the spot with their cell phones and report them to the NEC’s mobile internet homepage immediately.

"If NEC sends the reported content to the mobile phone of the supervisor in charge, the indicated scene will be checked or investigated."

Cellular operator participation

South Korean cellular operator, KT Freetel (KTF), is participating in the camera phone application by including a menu item on the home page "deck" on the cellular phone that links to the NEC service. In addition, KTF is offering a "hot number" capability enabling cellular subscribers to enter five digits to access the NEC service.

Cellular subscribers also can use SMS to transmit information to the NEC. quotes a "person from the mobile phone business" as saying there are 34 million cellular subscribers, of which six million have camera phones.

The big picture

The Korean government is asking its citizens to be tipsters to potential election crimes -- and to document those crimes with camera phone photos. Is this a job for citizens? Are there dangers to citizens trying to photograph someone creating a criminal act?

I wrote on November 21, 2003 that we could see "suicide photograpers."

Here's what I wrote then:

"Take a photo of secret police brutality, send the photo to the Web...and then you get killed. Suicide photographers. Sure I'm being melodramatic. But war photographers risk their lives every day. Ordinary citizens with camera phones will risk their lives to document brutality, criminal activity, etc.

Indeed, I am waiting (though not eagerly) to read the first report of a citizen killed because he/she was taking an important photo -- whether it would be of a bank robber, a political protest, a police action, etc."

Greater issues

Camera phone users already are transmitting photos to law enforcement agencies to report possible criminal activities, traffic accidents, etc. But we haven't seen any of the ramifications of these citizen tipsters.

There's a lot of good that can come out of reporting potential abuses. But there could be unseen (or seen) problems as well.

Friday, February 27, 2004 in Security | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Wednesday, February 25, 2004

California students use camera phones to send photos of test answers

It's well known that students for years have used SMS to send each other answers to tests. Now, students are using camera phones to photograph their test papers -- with the answers filled in -- and transmitting them to other students.

An article by Suzanne Pardington in the Contra Costa Times (the link does not seem to work -- -- notes, "Jan Burten, a math teacher at College Park High in Pleasant Hill, was shocked when a student showed her a cell-phone picture of a test question from another class last fall. The student who sent the picture was asking for the answer to be sent back in a picture. Since then, she's heard of other similar incidents."

In the article, "The cheat e-sheet," Pardington reports that California lawmakers last year passed a law permitting students to carry cellular phones in school. The five high schools in the Acalanes district of California intend to post signs in locker rooms banning cellular phones.

How about trying to keep up?!

Here's a rather telling and sad admission from Jan Burten, a math teacher at a Pleasant Hill, Calif. high school, "The kids are much brighter than we are with computers and technology. There's no way we can keep up with them."

Well, my advice to Ms. Burten is to learn about technology instead of bemoaning her incompetence. Perhaps schools should hold regular seminars entitled, "How to be at least as bright as your students" -- taught by students provide technology tutorials.

I also would suggest that teachers consider incorporating camera phones into school projects, although I realize most students still don't have camera phones.

Ask for donations

Perhaps cellular operators, handset vendors or alumni might be interested in donating camera phones and airtime. It's good PR, especially to help counter efforts to ban camera phones.

Also, a teacher wouldn't have to give camera phones to all students all the time. Rotating the use of camera phones among groups of students is an option.

There could be many group projects throughout the semester -- projects that would be useful and also teach responsible use of camera phones -- something cellular operators and handset vendors seem unwilling to do.

"Your old world is rapidly ageing..."

Hey teachers -- students are bringing technology into your classrooms whether you like it or not. Learn to use it to further education or fall further behind your students.

Wednesday, February 25, 2004 in Security | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Thursday, February 19, 2004

Cleveland TV reporter debunks camera phone for capturing credit card numbers

Finally -- a reporter that actually checked out whether camera phones could be used to photograph credit card numbers. An article on the News Channel 5 Web site (a Cleveland/Akron TV station), debunks the idea that camera phones could be used to steal credit card numbers by photographing the number..

John Matarese, who writes a "Don't Waste Your Money" column (or is this a TV spot, too?), asked a local advertising executive to test two camera phones for their ability to take photos clear enough to view a credit card number. (My assumption is the advertising executive contacted Matarese, but it's not noted in the article.)

The article reports, "A credit card and an ATM card were laid out, with some digit [one digit? some digits?] blacked out to be safe. From a foot away, the numbers could not be seen."

The article concludes: "Today's camera phones don't zoom in, so the camera had to be 4 inches away before seeing a grainy image of some numbers. Of course, you should always protect your credit card out in public, but a thief would have to be just inches from your card to capture its number."

Yes, but...

As I have written several times (and other Webloggers also have noted), it's impossible (or almost impossible under normal circumstances) to get close enough to a credit card to capture an image sharp enough the show the number.

I've written several article (posted in the "Security" section of my Weblog) about this topic. As I wrote in the first article, I took a photo with a camera phone that was clear enough to read the numbers on the front, but it was close to the card and the lighting was good.

So, this is not something to worry about now. When one megapixel camera phones are introduced in the United States this year, the resolution certainly will be better. But, the phone still has to be close enough to take a sufficiently sharp photo.

If digital zoom software improves dramatically or if camera phones get optical zooms, then it might be time to revisit this issue.

Thursday, February 19, 2004 in Security | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Tuesday, February 17, 2004

Kansas City Star columnist defends camera phones as a "scapegoat"

Finally -- an article that not only doesn't call for banning camera phones but points out the many other devices that are available for taking photos. In his February 17, 2004 article Kansas City Star columnist David Hayes says, "Camera phone don't kill privacy, people do."

He notes that there are many other devices that take photos -- and are more secretive -- than camera phones. Hayes writes:

"If you really want to take a secret photo without someone knowing, pick up one of the camera watches on the market.

"Camera watches look and act like traditional wristwatches, but double as digital cameras.

"Several companies, including Kodak, offer small MP3 players that double as digital cameras and digital camcorders.

"And a number of companies, including Overland Park's Bushhell Performance Optics, make binoculars with built-in digital still cameras or videocameras. Ostensibly, the cameras are designed for bird watchers and sporting events.

"But despite these potential threats to personal privacy, I haven't heard anyone calling for a ban on wristwatches, MP3 players or binoculars."

A scapegoat

Hayes says we are a society of voyeurs, as illustrated by the reality-type shows that infect (my word!) television.

Tuesday, February 17, 2004 in Banning camera phones, Security | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Saturday, February 07, 2004

Third article about camera phones and identity theft

I found another article, datelined January 30, 2004, about New Jersey authorities (who are they? police?) warning shoppers that thieves could snap photos of shoppers' credit cards.

If you've read one article you've read them all. None of the articles provides any proof that this is easily done. Here's what the News 12 article (found on MSNBC) says:

"Officials in New Jersey are warning shoppers about identity thieves who are using camera phones to steal credit card information. They say the phones can take a picture of a credit card and thieves can, in turn, print out the person's name and credit card number.

"The information can be used in fraudulent purchases over the telephone and Internet.

"Authorities are advising people shopping in retail stores, supermarkets and restaurants to be aware of anyone loitering around with a cell phone in hand. Police are also telling consumers to keep a close eye on their credit cards and to only pull them out when they are about to pay."

Where's the evidence?

I'm not discounting the possibility of this. But I'm disgusted by the poor journalism that doesn't provide evidence of how easy (or not) this is to accomplish.

Saturday, February 07, 2004 in Security | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

MSNBC reports (poorly) on camera phones and identity theft

I waited for more than an hour this morning for a report that was "coming up" on MSNBC about camera phones and identity theft. What a waste of time, waiting to watch a crummy report.

The reporter was in Wilmington, N.C. and discussed how thieves could employ camera phones to take photos of shoppers' credit cards. Sound familiar? The alarm about the same subject was sounded by an Arkansas sheriff, as I wrote on Wednesday.

If you read Wednesday's posting you'll know what MSNBC reported. The Wilmington police are warning people that criminals could use camera phones to take photos of credit cards. Unsuspecting citizens could become victims of identity theft without knowing about it.

Rotten journalism

There was no attempt to show that a camera phone could take a photo that would be sharp enough to display a credit card number. Even the most inexperienced journalist should ask to see evidence that this was possible.

I believe it is extremely difficult, based upon today's VGA camera phones, to take a sufficiently clear photo. As I wrote on Wednesday, you can take a good enough photo but you have to get close to the card, the lighting has to be bright enough enough and neither the card nor the camera must move to ensure a sufficiently sharp photo.

Saturday, February 07, 2004 in Security | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Friday, February 06, 2004

U.S. Air Force bans camera phones in restricted areas

A columnist in The Washington Post today writes that the United States Air Force has issued an alert about camera phones and is banning them in all restricted areas. Frankly, this is no big deal. As I've written many times, corporations and organizations that have legitimate security concerns should ban camera phones as well as other devices that could compromise security.


According to the article, the Air Force Communications Agency yesterday banned camera phones from Air Force offices that handle classified information. I wonder if that means you can't bring a camera phone into the entire facility or whether you just can't bring it into a restricted area.

The U.S. National Security Agency says camera phones "pose an unacceptable security risk to homeland security."

The Washington Post columnist, Stephen Barr, writes in his "Federal Diary" column that Tinker Air Force Base in Oklahoma issued a press release last week about the Air Force's concerns. I found the press release on the U.S. Air Force's main Web site.

I thought it was interesting so I am including the entire release


Tinker Air Force Base camera phone warning

Camera phones pose risk to security

by Master Sgt. Darrell Lewis
Oklahoma City Air Logistics Center Public Affairs

1/26/2004 - TINKER AIR FORCE BASE, Okla. (AFPN) -- Carrying the latest "have-to-have" electronic gadget may mean big trouble for the person who brings it into unauthorized locations.

Officials from the National Security Agency said in an advisory that new cellular phones with integral digital cameras pose an unacceptable security risk to homeland security. This type of phone is not authorized for use or possession within any Air Force facility processing classified information.

"Communications are getting faster and easier," said Jane Guidicini, Air Force Communications Agency certified emission security technical authority. "While that does help speed communications, it can also unfortunately allow classified information to get out of a classified area inadvertently or otherwise.

"We realize occasionally the restrictions might seem overly strict when the new technologies come out, but it's better to be overly cautious than to have an incident," Ms. Guidicini said.

"It takes just a little common sense to realize that if you have a cell phone with a camera, you should leave it home if you work in a classified area," said Tech. Sgt. Shon Kloepping, 72nd Security Forces Squadron noncommissioned officer in charge of physical security.

If someone in a restricted area has one of the phones with a camera capability and a security forces troop discovers it, he or she would be forced to confiscate the camera for review of unlawful images, Sergeant Kloepping said.

Additionally, civilian employees could face federal charges and military members could face federal charges and Uniform Code of Military Justice actions, he said.

But it is not just a good idea to limit their use in "secure rooms" where classified information is being processed, said Peter Bryant, Air Force Materiel Command security forces directorate information security chief.

"You should watch how you use and carry those anywhere you're dealing with sensitive or proprietary information," he said.

If people see someone using any unauthorized camera without coordinating with base agencies, contact the base security forces squadron, Mr. Bryant said.

"It all comes down to being aware," Sergeant Kloepping said. (Courtesy of AFMC News Service)

An extension of existing policies

Air Force facilities already ask people entering restricted areas to turn off their cellular phones or leave them outside. The ban on camera phones is just an extension of this policy.

As I've also written before, companies and organizations with legitimate concerns already have policies for dealing with devices that are potential security threats.

My concern is that organizations without legitimate reasons to ban camera phones -- such as corporations afraid their male employees will take photos of women in bathrooms -- are banning these phones instead of providing employee education.

Friday, February 06, 2004 in Banning camera phones, Security | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Wednesday, February 04, 2004

Criminals using camera phones to take photos of credit cards

From I learned of an article by a sheriff in Arkansas who warns that criminals are using camera phones to take photos of credit cards. When first reading the article you might think, "hey, this is serious," but if you give the matter some thought, it's probably less serious -- at least with today's camera phones in the United States.

Sergeant Tim Phillips in the Baxter Bulletin writes that criminals could take a photo of your credit card while your standing in line. He says this sort of activity has increased identity theft by as much as 20 percent. Who determined this figure?

Baxter's tips

Baxter lists six ways to reduce the threat of your credit card being photographed:

"* Do not remove your credit card from your wallet or purse until you are immediately ready to use it.

"* Avoid handing your credit card face up to the cashier. Hand it face down, covering your signature on the back with the palm of your hand or thumb.

"* Do not sign your receipt where others can easily read it.

"* If someone is standing a little too close to you while using a cell phone, it is better to politely ask him or her to kindly allow more space than to become a victim of identity theft.

"* Always be aware of your surroundings and the people around you. This is especially true when traveling out of town.

"* Casinos, professional stadiums, concert halls and large amusement parks are a criminal's feeding grounds. Be careful here."

Is this really a problem?

Mike Masnick of Techdirt Wireless is skeptical about the extent of this problem and so am I. Mike points to the Window Manager Weblog where Director Mitch (Mitch Director?) used his Samsung SOH-A620 camera phone to take a photo of his credit card from about three feet away.

The result is a blur, where you can just about see that it is a credit card, let alone read the number.

Based upon the resolution/clarity of camera phones in the U.S., including the lack of an optical zoom, I suspect this threat is exaggerated. You wouldn't be able to read the credit cards numbers unless you took a close photo in good lighting conditions.

Actually, I did just that. I took some photos of one of my credit cards with my Hitachi G1000 Pocket PC camera phone. The photos were clear enought to read the numbers, but that was when I held the phone close to the card, without moving and the lighting was bright.

Technology doesn't stand still

However, that doesn't mean there won't be a more serious problem in the future. Two megapixel camera phones are available in Asia and three mexapixel handsets should be available in the area this year.

I don't know whether optical zooms will be available but photo editing programs could help improve the readability of credit card numbers.

So, I don't think it's something to worry about now, but something to think about in the future.

Wednesday, February 04, 2004 in Security | Permalink | Comments (1) | 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

Saturday, December 06, 2003

Cook County Illinois court doesn't allow camera phones

Robert Grosshandler, the founder and CEO of, wasn't allowed into the Cook County (Illinois) courthouse because he was carrying a camera phone -- a Handspring/palmOne Treo 600.

Robert writes me that he was only "partially surprised" that camera phones were banned, but he was "very surprised" that a sheriff's deputy recognized the Treo as a camera phone. The deputy wanted Robert to take the handset back to his (Robert's) car, but the deputy agreed to check it, instead.

I wrote on Sunday that a Detroit News article noted that courts are banning camera phones because they don't want law enforcement officers or jurors photographed.

So where should you put them?

This could be a real pain for many folks who unwittingly take their camera phones into a courthouse and are told to remove them from the premises. If courthouses don't check camera phones -- and the users didn't drive their own automobiles to get there -- where are camera phone users supposed to dump their phones?

Eventually, the word will get out that you shouldn't bring a camera phone to court. But this can be a real pain in the ass, especially if you need your phone to make calls outside of the court.

[Update] Check out the comment posted by Ernest Svenson, a New Orleans attorney and one of the most well known bloggers under the name of Ernie the Attorney.

Saturday, December 06, 2003 in Banning camera phones, Security | Permalink | Comments (1) | 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 25, 2003

Newark legislature drafting law for camera phones and similar technology

The Newark Star-Ledger today reports the New Jersey Senate Judiciary Committee has approved a bill that would make it illegal to secretly view or videotape anyone in a private location where people undress or engage in intimate activity. The use of camera phones is one of the reasons the bill has been drafted.

"The old 'Peeping Tom' statutes, officials said, no longer cut it in an age when cameras that look like phones can be used to secretly photograph unsuspecting victims and then transmit those photos in seconds to the Internet for millions to see," reports Gabriel H. Gluck in the article.

One of the reasons for the Committee's action was a state appeals court overturning a conviction of a New Jersey man who hid a video recorder in a flower arrangement and recorded two women in his house when they undressed and showered in the bathroom. The judge ruled the current law only covered instances where someone peers into a window or other opening.

Concern about children

New Jersey YMCAs and other health clubs are concerned about camera phone perverts taking photos of children and are trying to determine how to deal with the potential problem, the article notes.

"But it is not just the ability of phones to take pictures that raises concerns. It is also the ability to transmit those photographs and post them on the Web. Unlike the Peeping Tom of another era, whose voyeurism had an audience of one, the Internet now makes it possible to record and share images for millions to see.

"State Attorney General Peter Harvey and other law enforcement officials have warned that New Jersey's current 'Peeping Tom' law is not adequate to address the threat to privacy posed by miniaturized cameras," the Star-Ledger reports.

No effect on Verizon Wireless?

The article quotes David Samberg, a Verizon Wireless spokesperson, who says new restrictions wouldn't hurt sales of camera phones. He says, "Verizon Wireless expects its customers to use common sense, be respectful, and be mindful of the laws out there."

Most customers will use common sense, but if there weren't lots of morons in the world there wouldn't be all the laws!

I will write and write and write again that the wireless industry has done an incompetent job of educating consumers and businesses about camera phones. Camera phones are being banned and laws are being written, and these very useful devices are looking pretty bad in the press.

Black eyes

The wireless industry had better damn well begin utilizing the talents of its advertising and marketing experts to provide customer education. How big a black eye does the camera phone industry want to get before it takes some action?

This is not about misleading the press. It's about doing more than running least-common-denominator TV ads. It's about promoting the value of camera phones for a variety of uses while, at the same time, providing information about how to be a "responsible" camera phone user.

Hey, cellular operators -- Do you want corporations to ban camera phones? Hey handset vendors -- Do you want to be forced to manufacture two versions of the same product (with and without a camera)? If you do, just continue to be incompetent in your marketing and public relations efforts and ignore the problem.

Tuesday, November 25, 2003 in Banning camera phones, Security, Trends | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Tuesday, November 11, 2003

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

Wednesday, November 05, 2003

Your company's influence over your personal cellular phone

Techdirt Wireless' Mike Masnick's comments about my entry yesterday of how handset vendors will likely offer two models of some cellular phones -- one with a camera and one without -- got me thinking about your employer's influence over your personal phone purchase.

Mike writes, "This is going to be a huge waste of money. Designing a new phone will take some money, and will create a phone that offers less value to the customer (and less opportunity for revenue for the carrier).

"However as camera phones begin to find more acceptance in the marketplace, people are going to get angry when their boss tells them the expensive phone they just bought can't be brought into the office. They're not going to want to buy the version without the camera if part of the reason they're upgrading is for the camera in the first place.

"This is a (costly) over reaction to a technology that will do nothing to stop the real problem (theft of corporate secrets or invasion of privacy), but will cost lots of money and anger many people."

How much influence?

If your company gives you a cellular phone and pays the airtime bill you probably don't have too much say about what you get unless you're a top executive who helped determine the contract. But what if you need a cellular phone for business and your company doesn't give you a phone, but pays your airtime bill for the business calls? Or, what if you use your own phone for business but your company doesn't reimburse you at all?

How much influence should your company have over your personal buying decision? You want a camera phone but your company bans camera phones from the building.

You might say, "Well, if your company bans camera phones, just don't buy one!" But what if you want a camera phone for your personal use? And, frankly, I think businesses are going to be surprised by the value of camera phones. People will find uses for camera phones they didn't anticipate.

Stopping corporate espionage

A couple of weeks ago I wrote in my Reiter's Wireless Data Web Log about an analyst -- a clueless analyst -- who recommended that corporations ban camera phones even if they don't deal with sensitive products or services.

As I pointed out in that article, anyone determined to photograph something has plenty of options that are better than carrying around a camera phone. You may purchase all sorts of "spy cameras" ranging from tiny digital cameras (that look like cameras) to cameras disguised as clocks, pens, tissue boxes, eyeglass cases, etc.

What's a corporation going to do? Ban clocks, pens, tissue boxes and eyeglass cases?

True security concerns versus stupidity

Companies with legitimate security concerns need to take appropriate measures. But most companies that ban camera phones will be, I believe, simply paranoid. People are going to want camera phones. Wholesale banning is a mark of the moron.

Wednesday, November 05, 2003 in Security | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Tuesday, November 04, 2003

Corporations forcing handset vendors to remove cameras in phones

I have been blind-sided.

It appears that because corporations are decrying the inclusion of cameras in cellular phones, handset vendors and cellular operators are talking about creating two versions of the same phone: One with a camera and one without.

I pride myself on anticipating the evolution of the wireless data environment. I've got good instincts. (I know nothing about just about everything, and I know very little about just about everything else. But I do know wireless data.)

But I didn't see this coming. I didn't imagine security considerations would be so "virulent" that handset vendors would change their plans. However, according an article in the November 11 issue of eWeek, this is occurring. (Thank you Harry Goodman for sending me the link. Harry, create a Weblog!)

No cameras allowed

It's no secret that some corporations with sensitive work ban devices that could compromise security, such as all types of cameras and video recording equipment. So it's no surprise that camera phones would be banned, too.

But the "breadth of concern," as eWeek writer Carmen Nobel puts it, has surprised the cellular operators -- and they are doing something about it. I assumed -- and the operators did, too -- that high end phones would have cameras. Period. Wrong!

Cindy Patterson, vice president of enterprise sales at Verizon Wireless, manages a technology board of Fortune 500 CIOs who look at new cellular phones before Verizon decides to offer them. Patterson says 50 per cent of the board members -- Verizon customers -- said they couldn't allow a camera phone, eWeek reports.

Two handset models

eWeek writes about Verizon, "The company has already worked with Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd. to create a version of Samsung's high-end i700 phone with a disabled camera for security-sensitive corporate customers. But a disabled camera remains a camera.

"'You could bring in a severely antiquated camera from 1920 that obviously doesn't work anymore, and they wouldn't let it in,' Lockheed Martin's Milkovich said. 'It's still a camera. If you had a phone with a camera in it, they'd take it away from you and probably jump up and down on it.'

"To that end, Verizon Wireless is talking to handset providers about creating two SKUs of its high-end phones, one with a camera and one without, Patterson said."

Sprint/Handspring discussions

Other cellular operators also are talking to handset manufacturers about two versions of phones. The eWeek article notes that Sprint PCS and Handspring are talking about a camera-less version of the Treo 600. The 600 has received rave reviews and the photos look good, too.

(Check out the Treo 600 photo albums by Dr. Bill Koslosky, also known as the "wireless doc.")

Sprint and Handspring are discussing disabling the Treo 600's camera with a software modification and also the possibility of developing a version without the camera.

Eliminating the camera would be a drastic development. Handspring has given a lot of thought to creating the 600. The camera is an integral part of what the phone is "all about." Removing the camera would be like removing an arm.

Expensive for everyone

Developing a phone costs $15 million - $20 million, according to Peter Bancroft, vice president of communications for Symbian, which produces the Symbian OS for cellular phones.

Although removing a camera isn't like starting completely from square one, it certainly would require a lot of time, reengineering and software modifications. If you start seeing camera-less versions of the same model phone, you'll know the wireless industry has been under enormous pressure from corporations.

Driving change

There are significant consumer and business applications for camera phones. Consumers -- not corporations -- are the driving force in the evolution of camera phones around the world. Indeed, many analysts have consistently dismissed the value of consumers as drivers of change in wireless data and, of course, have been proven wrong.

Many analysts have only recently awakened from their somnolence after seeing, duh, the explosion of SMS used by kids followed by the explosion in ringtones and games. Of course, some analysts are still clueless about the value of camera phones.

Certainly some business people already are embracing camera phones. Large corporations might be leery of them, but there's no doubt that small businesses -- real estate, construction, field sales, as examples -- are finding camera phones a value in their work.

Security is going to remain a serious issue. But people will embrace camera phones in any case.

Tuesday, November 04, 2003 in Banning camera phones, Security | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack