Keep Our Families Safe

Camera-phones and Your Privacy

 You’ve seen the commercials…a father tangled up in holiday lights, the guy eating pasta like a slob, the ‘actor’ who is really passing out coupons dressed in a hot dog suit. All of these embarrassing moments are captured and transmitted to friends and family alike using the latest innovation from the cell phone world: camera-phones.
 
While these commercials are indeed funny, what you may not realize is that your privacy may be invaded.
 
Even more worrisome is that these invasions of privacy can take innumerable forms ranging from the embarrassing to the pornographic. To be sure, no one wants her picture taken with a glob of ketchup on her face. Nor does anyone want to be photographed drenched in sweat and gasping for breath while hunched over the exercise bike. 
 
But that pales in comparison to the Chicago man who used his camera-phone to photograph young children in the shower. Equally as disturbing is the growing use of the camera-phones for voyeuristic “down blouse” or “up skirt” pictures. 
 
There is no doubt that those of us who do not own camera-phones should be entitled to a reasonable right to our privacy. With over six million of these devices having been sold and that number climbing rapidly, health clubs, coffee houses and other establishments are taking action to ban the use of camera-phones. 
 
Some cities and towns are taking action as well. The town of Elk Grove, a Chicago suburb, has banned the use of cell phones of any kind in public facilities like park restrooms. “There is no reason to have a cell phone while you’re changing and showering,” says Ron Nunes, a park district commissioner in Elk Grove.
 
Trying to balance the rights of camera-phone owners and their potential subjects is difficult. What if a camera-phone is the only phone someone owns and they are unable to call for help in an emergency? 
 
Of course this is something of an extreme example that can be easily remedied by not purchasing a camera-phone. 
 
Not unsurprisingly, too, manufacturers refuse to take any responsibility for their products. There are always going to be people who do things like taking a picture under someone’s clothing with a camera-phone, they say. Bad people will always find a way to misuse something no matter how well intended the product, is their other excuse.
 
But until the mind-set of camera-phone manufacturers change, everyone should exercise caution. You never know when someone may be taking your picture and you have no control over who will see it.