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Last Updated: Monday, 7 July, 2003, 16:31 GMT 17:31 UK
Samsung bans 'spy' phones
Samsung's web video phone
Samsung has become a world leader in phone technology

South Korea's Samsung Electronics has banned the use of camera phones in some of its factories for fear they could be used for industrial espionage.

The move by the world's third-largest mobile phone manufacturer is effectively an admission of the potential for misuse of its fastest growing product.

Anyone taking a camera phone into some of Samsung's plants will have now to place a sticker over the camera lens.

"Use of camera phones will be restricted in our most sensitive plants such as research and development centres and semi-conductor labs," said Samsung.

Changed reputation

Camera phones are now commonplace in South Korea and Japan but the ability to take discreet photos and immediately distribute them on the internet is causing increasing concern.

In Japan, shopkeepers are said to be complaining that young girls are using their phones to take photos of fashion articles instead of buying the magazines.

Hank Morris of Industrial Research Consultants in Seoul said it was no surprise that Samsung should make this move.

"It is something of an industrial espionage risk if people wander around the premises and snap photos at will," he said.

Mr Morris said Samsung's decision also reflects a shift in South Korea's industrial reputation - once renowned for copying the products of Japan and other industrialised nations.

"They have reached a stage where they are no longer copy artists but prime developers themselves and in many cases global leaders in certain sectors," he said.

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