Consequences of Camera Phones in Today’s Society
Kelsey Good and Steven Moulton
Every technological device that surrounds people today is continually evolving and advancing. Cell phones were once the size of a brick and nearly impossible to take anywhere but in the car. Today, some phones are so small you can fit them in the palm of your hand. With Bluetooth technology, the term ‘hand held’ is becoming obsolete because all you need is an earpiece to talk on your phone. In-phone camera technology is no different. The field is evolving along with the cell phones they are installed in, for the cameras to be better, faster, and clearer. Because the integration of camera phones into everyday life is so widespread, it is important to understand the history, technology, and future of camera phones. As with many other technologies before it, the camera phone has been use positively as well as to achieve negative aims.
History of Camera Phones
Camera phones are a relatively new invention. Philip Kahn invented the first camera phone in 1997 on the day his daughter was born. Using parts bought at Radio Shack, Kahn linked a digital camera to his phone so he was able to take pictures and send them over e-mail to his friends and family around the world. Today, the camera phone has evolved into an asset not even Kahn could have foreseen when he originally invented it. Modern cell phones are generation three phones, which means they have the capability to send and receive digital images, watch streaming video, access the Internet, and in some cases access Microsoft Office suite to write and send documents. Camera phones are heading towards more complex digital imaging with higher resolution and larger memory capacity. Phones will also be able to send and receive larger files at faster speeds, which means that video streaming on phones is moving towards television-like clarity and a faster connection. Because of the advancements of the cell phone camera over the years, many associate Kahn with a negative invention due to those who have misused it.
The Market for Camera Phones
The demand for cell phones in the U.S. is nothing compared to the rest of the world. In the U.S., the market has almost reached a saturation point. In the United Kingdom however, the amount of cell phone numbers recently surpassed the actual number of people (“Cell Phone Usage”). As a nation, Africa has one of the largest growth rates of new cell phone subscribers. Once considered a part of the world with no need for cell phone service coverage, the continent of Africa now has almost complete access to cell phone service. India currently has the biggest growth in a single market with six million new phones in January of 2007 alone (Gupta). With the globalization of cell phone use, the potential number of camera phones around the world is staggering. Legislation has already been created in countries where camera phones are more popular in countries that are technologically advanced, like South Korea. In South Korea a camera phone must make a clearly audible and distinct sound when a picture or video is taken. Camera phones are only gaining momentum and their presence in the market is increasing as popularity grows.
How Camera Phones Work
Camera phones are simple devices that do not take much demonstration or instruction to learn how to use. A small digital camera is mounted on the back or front of the phone along with an application on the phone that allows the user to take, store, and send pictures or videos directly from the phone itself. Once a picture or video is taken, it can be sent in the same way a text message is sent as long as the user on the receiving end has the appropriate software on their phone to view the picture. Internet enabled phones can also upload photos directly online to a user’s online gallery or a website straight from the phone itself. As the technology grows more intricate and advanced, phones will be able to do more than ever. More recent versions offer the ability to watch music videos while listening to a song or even watch live TV from the screen on your phone. The only drawback to the increasing development of the technology and more advanced picture quality is the limited battery life. The use of the camera or video, and sending either of the two drains a phones battery and makes it difficult for a user to keep the phone charged over long periods of time.
Negative Uses of Camera Phones
Even though camera phones have made it easier to capture criminals, bring forward hazardous work environments, or even capture your European vacation, individuals are taking advantage of their features and also using them in a harmful way. It is important to look at how camera phones can negatively impact people and corporations through invasions of privacy, identity theft, and reputation attacks. It is also essential to examine and realize the actions being taken to minimize the impacts of these negative uses. In this chapter, the following areas will be covered: camera phones in the work place, as a means of sexual exploitation, as a tool to carry out identity theft, and to hurt one’s reputation.
Camera Phones in the Work Place
Companies have been quick to realize the potential problems camera phones bring into the work place. This technology carries with it the risk of industrial espionage as well as privacy risks of both employees and visitors. To address these threats, some companies have placed limitations on camera phone possession and use.
With the emergence of the camera phone, companies have become concerned with the potential theft of secretive information. This is particularly important to companies that rely heavily on trade secrets for competitive advantage. Specifically, companies are exposed to product formulas, client lists, or marketing strategies potentially being photographed (Rupal). DaimlerChrysler, a Michigan based automobile producer, banned the use of cameras 35 years ago due to a proprietary leak. This policy was expanded five years ago to include camera phones. When asked about their ban on camera phones in the workplace, a spokesman from DaimlerChrysler said that “the nature of our business is proprietary and there are trade secrets we have to protect” (Rupal 1).
According to Kathryn Terrell, a human resource consultant from a Fort Collins, Colorado based firm, harassment is a much larger issue than the theft of trade secrets. “In my opinion, the bigger problem with camera phones is use by employees to impulsively take inappropriate photos” (“Cell Phone Usage Statistics”2). She is also a strong advocate of companies taking a hard line approach and adjusting policies to include camera phone abuse. In a survey of 400 human resource managers, only 7% of companies had written and implemented policies regarding camera phones, 15% were planning on implementing a policy in the next six months, and 77% lacked any written policy. Those without any policy in place are potentially liable for any harassment created by the use of camera phones within the workplace (Rupal).
Another issue companies may face from the use of camera phones in the workplace is employees’ access to inappropriate photos. Since employers are unable to view what their employees are looking at on their phones, there is a risk they may be looking at and spreading pornography to other employees (“Should”). In the long run, this may be an obstruction to work performance and the attitude of the overall work environment.
In response to these inappropriate uses of camera phones in the workplace, companies are looking to ban the use of them. Already companies like DaimlerChrysler, Texas Instruments Inc., and Samsung do not allow recording devices (including camera phones) on company premises. Samsung, the pioneer of the camera phone, does not even allow cell phones at work because of the impending risk of the theft of confidential information and leaking of secretive technology to competitors (“Should”). Companies have the option of enacting a complete ban on camera phones, a ban in designated areas (such as technology sensitive areas and/or restrooms), or a ban restricting use during breaks. However, some argue that an all-inclusive ban may be ineffective since it is unenforceable and companies should instead focus on security where it matters the most (product development) and concentrate on training employees to spot problematic behavior (Rupal).
By banning the use of camera phones at work, you are potentially getting rid of any positive benefits created by their use. These may include their ability to facilitate accident investigations and document unsafe working conditions (“Should”). Thus, it is important to find a policy that fits best within the associated work environment.
Camera Phones and Sexual Exploitation
As camera phone technology advances, the picture quality has substantially increased while the overall size of the phone has decreased. This has made it easier to conceal the camera when taking pictures. Certain individuals have taken advantage of this by secretly taking photos and videos without the subject’s knowledge and in locations that were once viewed as private.
Sexual predators have used cell phone technology as an advantage in taking both so-called “up-skirt” and “down-blouse” photos. An “up-skirt” photo is a picture that is taken pointed up someone’s skirt without the knowledge of the subject. A “down-blousing” picture is a picture of a woman’s breasts taken as she is bending over. After these shots have been taken, they are typically uploaded onto Internet voyeur sites (Collins). This is normally done without the subject ever knowing.
Most phones now have the ability to send photos or videos between other users and can automatically upload them onto the Internet, making the ability to catch one of these videos before it is made public near impossible. At a public high school in Delhi, India, a young man captured himself and his girlfriend having sex by using his video phone. He then proceeded to send the video to his friends. The video was eventually even sold on the Internet. In response to this occurrence, Delhi administration placed a ban on all mobile phones in schools (Nair).
The United States has taken action by enacting the Video Voyeurism Prevention Act, which prohibits the videotaping or photographing of anyone who is naked or partially naked in situations with “reasonable expectations of privacy.” Some of these locations may include locker rooms, tanning salons, and changing rooms (U.S. Congress). Many countries have similar laws but they have not all been updated to include camera phones. In Scotland, a woman was changing in a locker room with her eight year old son at a local pool and was photographed on a camera phone. As in many locations where there is an instituted ban on photographs, Scotland’s laws may not have been updated to include camera phones (“Menace”). This has led to an increase in litigation attempting to address these gaping loopholes.
The violations stated above occurred where reasonable privacy was expected, but similar infringements can occur while you are out in the public. In Japan, individuals have used infrared attachments on their cameras, which have allowed them to actually see through someone’s clothing. While these individuals were later arrested, this is an illustration of how people are taking this technology to new dangerous levels (“Menace”). In Toronto, a man was using grocery stores as a location to snap pictures of his victims. He would appear to be browsing the bottom shelves and while crouching, he would use his camera phone to take “up-skirt” pictures of young girls (Brautigam). This man was only caught through security cameras in the grocery stores. In Boston, a cell phone salesman used a camera phone to snap a picture under a 17 year old’s skirt as she was riding up an escalator at a local mall (Collins). In all of these examples, the subject never knew their picture was taken and still their privacy was being violated.
In response to the increase in using camera phones as a means for sexual exploitation, many states have taken initiative to make this a criminal act. California outlawed upskirting and downblousing after images that were taken at Disneyland showed up on the Internet (Collins). Other states like Ohio and Pennsylvania also increased their voyeurism laws to include these new offenses (Miller). This is undoubtedly a step in the right direction, but the problem is that the laws do not necessarily regulate the issue if the subject does not know their picture was taken.
Nick Ashley, a Toronto Police Detective said “cell phones are so common place in our culture now, people are quite used to seeing them in people’s hands, it’s not even something they give a second though to” (Brautigam A17). This is coupled by the fact that cameras are getting smaller while their picture quality increases, making it more and more difficult to know if your privacy was ever violated.
Identity Theft with Camera Phones
As identity theft becomes more prevalent in today’s society, thieves are finding new means to gaining private information, which includes the use of camera phones. These phones are becoming more common place and the image quality is nearing those of digital cameras, making it easier for anyone to take an image from further away while still maintaining the same level of detail. This makes the everyday shopper exposed to bank theft by getting their credit card photographed, or to identity theft since licenses are occasionally displayed when making a purchase.
For example, a man was at a pizzeria and was paying for his order with a credit card. After the cashier ran the card, she set the card back down on the counter as it processed. During this time, the employee began playing with his cell phone. The man realized he had the same phone as the cashier and he heard a unique sound of a picture being taken. Only thereafter did the employee hand back the credit card. Moments later, he heard the sound of the camera storing data (“Camera Phones”). Later on that evening the man canceled his credit cards, but would he have known what took place if he owned a different camera phone? The typical shopper cannot tell that their credit card number is even stolen until charges show up on the monthly bank statement (Elphinstone).
In the Pittsburg Post, an article was written around the holiday season explaining methods in which to protect oneself from identity theft. One of the methods they suggest is to make sure to look over your shoulders when standing in line and verify that no one is taking photos of your credit cards or other forms of identification on their camera phone. By doing this, you are protecting important personal information and potential loss of identity or financial theft. (Elphinstone)
Camera Phones and Reputation
Another negative use of camera phones is utilizing these images to hurt another’s reputation by posting them images for the public viewing. In a USA Today article by Maria Puente, she said “here in YouTube world whether you’re a celebrity or a nobody, privacy can be a disappearing luxury thanks to technology in every pocket” (Puente D7). According to her, at any given moment a photo or video can surface on the Internet or in magazines with the potential to harm a person’s reputation. A professor at the University of San Diego who does research in modern communications mentioned, “if the government is tracking calls, most people aren’t going to feel the repercussions. They’re more affected if a compromising photo gets on the Internet. That’s personal invasion they can see” (Puente D7). These images and videos can impact the decisions of college admissions, employers, or friends. It is commonly said that people spend years working on building their reputation and yet have the ability to ruin it in seconds.
Recently, an American Idol semifinalist, Antonella Barba, was voted off after risqué photos of her appeared on the Internet. Most of these photos were for a calendar that was meant for her boyfriend, but later photos believed to be her participating in sexual acts surfaced again, which may have turned the heads of a few voters (Puente). Miss Nevada USA, Katie Rees, lost her crown after nude photos of her showed up on the Internet. Other celebrities such as Kate Moss (snorting cocaine), Lindsay Lohan, Britney Spears, and Paris Hilton (all three caught partying without underwear), have had their reputation hurt through the surfacing of these images on the Internet (Puente). These examples specifically target high profile subjects, but every individual is at risk when it comes to their image being uploaded onto the Internet.
Once these images make it onto the Internet, it is near impossible to get them removed. An attorney who specializes in technology issues at McGuireWoods LLP in Richmond, Virginia says that once a picture is “captured, the sky is the limit as to how far it can be distributed” (Kelley A1). The problem is that pictures taken in public belong to the individual who took the photo. Therefore, it is extremely difficult to get them removed from the Internet. ReputationDefender, an American company who will search the Internet for roughly $16 a month, will provide you a detailed listing of their results and for $30 they claim that they are able to get it removed from the Internet through legal threats (Wall). Even though companies may be able to get this reputation damaging material off of the Internet, the best way to prevent this from getting there in the first place is to not act inappropriately in public.
As camera phones become more prevalent in society, it is becoming much harder to avoid being photographed, especially as cameras continue to shrink in size. Countries and individual states are now attempting to pass litigation aimed at protecting the victim from this breach of privacy. In the meantime, it is important to know the potential misuses in order to protect oneself while in both public and private places, along with protecting any company secrets or preventing harassment in the workplace. Though the negative impacts of camera phones are important issues to keep in consideration, there have been positive outcomes to the invention. With bad also comes good, and weighing the two against one another is important when gauging not only the impact camera phones have had, but also the danger they may pose in the future.
Positive Uses of Camera Phones
The uses for camera phones are not limited to just negative ones; many good things have come from people using the device. Civilian crime fighting, documentation of current events, and significant personal events are all moments in time that can, and are being, documented by cell phone cameras.
Camera Phones in Crime Abatement
Civilian crime fighting is becoming more popular as cell phone cameras become more technologically advanced and provide clearer images with the capability to quickly transfer a large amount of memory. One of the most recent development in civilian crime fighting has taken place in Indiana and New York. Police departments in both states are developing a system in which civilians are able to send a picture taken with a cell phone to police dispatchers the same way 911 calls are currently made. “If you see a crime in progress or a dangerous building, you’ll be able to transmit images to 911 or online to nyc.gov,” the mayor of New York City, Michael Bloomberg recently explained in his State of the City address (Parez).
The problems that are inherent with this new system are being addressed by both states. The biggest of the many technological problems is the massive amounts of possible pictures being sent to the police department and subsequently slowing down the system. If the system becomes overhauled with pictures being received, it is possible the system’s memory can fill up and no more pictures will be able to be sent in before the current pictures are looked at and dealt with. During this at-capacity-time, pictures of actual crimes taking place might not ever make it to the system. Instead, the pictures will be held back by superfluous pictures.
The second concern deals with the potential cost of not only the system itself, but also the manpower necessary to go through the pictures to discern whether or not an actual crime that necessitates follow-up has taken place. The respective police departments must go through each and every picture civilians send in just like 911 dispatchers must answer each and every call that comes into the station. In order to do this, dispatchers outside of the call center must be hired to go through a possible massive amount of pictures (Parez). With the solution of these problems, the 911 picture systems have the potential to increase the numbers of criminals caught in the act and convicted of their crimes.
Camera Phones and a New Form of Civilian Photojournalism
Since the mass acceptance of cameras with cell phones, civilian photojournalism has become a phenomenon that touches the lives of people around the world. Several institutions and agencies request pictures be sent over the Internet from any ‘average Joe’ that might have taken the photo with a camera phone. The horrific bombings of London subways and busses are an example of such a request. “London police are urging people who were near the scenes of Thursday’s deadly bomb blast in the British capitol to send in any information they may have captured on their mobile phone” (“Police”). This information was not only sent to police departments in the area; civilians involved in or near the incident took pictures and video on their camera phones and sent them to news organizations around the world. Without these photos and video, the world might not have known exactly what happened in the subway tunnels that day.
Cell phone cameras are quickly becoming the best source for on-the-spot photojournalism simply because so many people carry a phone equipped with a camera with them during the day. With access to a phone at any point during a daily routine, there is no telling what events a person might be able to capture. For example, the world knew about the scheduled execution of Saddam Hussein days before it was supposed to take place. News organizations also knew there would be no camera equipment allowed at the execution. A guard present smuggled in a cell phone with a camera and took the only known footage of the execution. This video of the hanging is now available on several online video and news sites.
Vacationers in Southeast Asia documented some of the most moving and telling video of the destructive force of the tsunami that took place in December of 2004. Without this footage, there would not be photographic evidence of the real-time extent of the destructive force of the massive waves that killed so many and caused so much damage. Scientists are also able to study the footage of the waves in order to gauge the height and speed of the wave and equate it with the size of the underground plate-shift that caused the tsunami. Camera phones provide access to spur of the moment documentation of events important in the lives of many people around the world. Without them, society might not have access to certain moments in time that have been a major part of history.
Camera phones are changing the world by giving people the opportunity to share video and imaging information from the tips of their fingers at any time. This technology allows an expansion of the possibilities of crime fighting and access to images most never thought possible.
As camera phones begin to play a major role in today’s society, future research is necessary in order to dig deeper and unveil new and potentially more harmful capabilities. Further research needs to look specifically at how society copes with this technological change. To do this, interviews should be conducted with executives and human resource managers in both large and small businesses across all industries, lawyers that deal specifically with business and individual privacy suits, union representatives, and professors specializing in this field. Based on these interviews, one would be able to generate a better idea about whether camera phones have a positive or a negative impact on society. Also, this data would provide a wide variety of information regarding methods that can be used to protect reputations, privacy, identity, and company information.
Camera phones are a part of every day life. This is a fact, whether damaging or beneficial, insignificant or not. Because they are so prevalent in the every day lives of people all over the world, the importance of knowing both the dangers and the benefits of this invention is important. A camera phone can affect anyone, anywhere, whether or not they themselves own a phone equipped with a camera. Thus, privacy issues are relevant to almost everyone. Pictures and video taken by camera phones are accessible and free to anyone who chooses to watch them on the Web and, in some cases, on T.V. With the widespread reach of camera phones today, weighing the good and the bad brings an awareness of the issue and knowledge that as these technologies advance the related problems will evolve and advance as well. Camera phones look like they are here to stay and if they are to become an almost unavoidable and permanent feature in daily life it is important to understand what to be aware of and the necessary precautions to protect ones’ privacy and identity.
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