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dot life Monday, 15 July, 2002, 14:12 GMT 15:12 UK
Life through a thousand lenses

The day may be coming when digital cameras will be as common as digital watches were in the 1980s. It's not good news for celebrities.
Pity the poor celebrity.

They get paid too much and have their opinions on any and every subject treated with reverence.

What do they give up in return? Their privacy, the chance to do anything mundane without being watched and their every mistake captured on film.

And this never-ending scrutiny is about to get much more relentless.

Phones and film

Mobile phones are being launched that have small digital cameras built in and, if they prove popular, both major and minor celebrities could find that every single thing they do when they step into the street is recorded.

SonyEricsson's T68i and Nokia's 7650 are among the first handsets with cameras to appear.

Concorde on fire on take-off. AP
This snap was taken by a passenger
There is a good chance the phones will be a hit. The models due to come out soon are made by Nokia and SonyEricsson who between them account for more than 45% of the handset market.

Almost 400 million handsets are sold every year and if only a small percentage of people buy one that can take snaps, there will quickly be more in circulation than there are digital cameras in use now.

The chances of being snapped while popping to the shops will be higher as most people carry a phone on a daily basis than tote a digital camera around.

If they prove as popular as the camera for the handheld Game Boy then there could even be movies made with the snaps.

Certainly the picture agencies would have no qualms about using images snapped with a phone's digital camera.

"If it was the only picture we would definitely take it," said a spokesman for the All Action picture agency. "In the end it's not the quality of the image, it's what's being pictured."

He said that recently the agency had bought and syndicated an image of rockstar Lenny Kravitz and Natalie Imbruglia in a compromising clinch even though it was the worst picture he had ever seen.

Crash test

With the growing number of cameras in phones there are likely to be lots more on-the-spot photos syndicated shortly afterwards that show what happened.

The well-known image of Concorde's engine in flames as it took off was captured by a Japanese businessman in another plane.

Nokia 7650, Nokia
Nokia's 7650 takes snaps like this
If JFK were shot now conspiracy theorists would have far more than just one film to pore over, the event would be snapped from every angle. (The famous - and only - grainy footage of the assassination was taken by bystander Abraham Zapruder, who had a home movie camera with him.)

The only thing that might save a celebrity's blushes is the fact that few people will think of selling their images to an agency.

That famous image of Concorde only came to light weeks after the stricken aircraft's crash in August when the man who took it returned to Japan at the end of his trip.

Privacy parade

Any celebrity snapped with one of the cameras would have a hard time defending their right to privacy in the courts.

Chris Hutchings, a partner at law firm Charles Russell, said there was no statutory right to privacy in public places. The simple fact that someone is famous is no protection.

The code that covers the activities of professional photographers, paparazzi to you and me, was drawn up by the Press Complaints Commission.

Mr Hutchings said privacy was only guaranteed when celebs were away from the public eye.

Natalie Imbruglia, PA
Imbruglia: snapped in a clinch with Kravitz
"Long-lens photography into homes and gardens is in contravention of the PCC code," said Mr Hutchings, "but on the street it would not be a contravention of the code."

Nor would a snap taken in a restaurant be a breach of the code.

The only grey areas were when a celeb is leaving somewhere that they might expect their presence to be kept confidential such as a surgery, support group or clinic, said Mr Hutchings.

It's getting easier all the time to find celebrities what with the appearance of services such as Text Hotspots - which tells subscribers which celebrity hangouts are nearby - and Upoc, a text message service that shares information between users when a celebrity is spotted.

It could become a new sport. Hunt and find the celebrity and show what they do, all day and everyday. There could be no escaping this spotlight.

Handy digital cameras: good or bad? Let us know your views using the form below. Also tell us if there's any way technology is changing your life that you think should cover.

Your comments so far:

I don't have a problem with digital cameras at all, but my first thought when seeing all of the amateur footage of 11 September was "how could people film this happening?" I couldn't film it myself, but with hindsight, the pictures give us a good historical record of what happened - a lesson for the future. Don't believe for one minute though that the camera never lies!
Mark, UK

I'm not really interested in celebrities or photos of what they're up to, but convinient digital cameras can be good for may things, I keep a camera in the car so that in the event of an accident, I can collect snaps of what happened as evidence, since no-one is prepared to be a witness these days, and the police are seemingly prejudiced against younger drivers. Now when will we get video cameras this small?
Stuart Gardner, Liverpool, UK

This article mostly focused on the bad side of having cameras everywhere but there is a lot of good that could come out of it too. Many of the defining moments in history have not been captured on film. The sinking of the Titanic for example - are there any photos of it? All I've seen are artists' impressions. Is it really voyeuristic to watch people jumping out of a sinking boat?
Steve Chambers, England

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Disclaimer: The BBC will put up as many of your comments as possible but we cannot guarantee that all e-mails will be published. The BBC reserves the right to edit comments that are published.
Weely guide to getting buttoned up

See also:

24 Mar 02 | UK
30 Jan 02 | Entertainment
25 Jun 02 | Entertainment
10 Apr 02 | Entertainment
02 Nov 01 | Science/Nature
28 Feb 02 | Science/Nature
22 Nov 01 | Science/Nature
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