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Last Updated: Wednesday, 17 November, 2004, 09:26 GMT
Camera phones threat to privacy
Girl holding a picture mobile phone
Picture phone manufacturers ask for a responsible use of their products
Use of camera phones should be restricted, a watchdog group has said.

The London-based Privacy International (PI) recommended a default flash be incorporated as standard in camera phones to prevent people taking covert pictures.

The popularity of camera phones has made it much easier to take illicit photos without permission.

Manufacturers said mobile phones should not be singled out and recommended proper use of their devices.

'Threat to privacy'

In a statement, PI called on mobile phone manufacturers to counter what it described as a "growing problem".

The misuse of phone cameras is becoming a real threat to privacy
Simon Davies, director, Privacy International

The human rights group says such an international standard is necessary in the wake of higher quality picture phones.

"The misuse of phone cameras is becoming a real threat to privacy," said PI's Director, Simon Davies.

"Unless action is taken immediately there is a risk that social intimacy will disappear within a decade."

He added that it was a call to make the technology safe, not to ban it, and stressed that phone companies have a legal and a moral responsibility to fix these problems.

Responsible use

Picture mobile phone
Fears grow amid the ever improving resolution of picture phones

In response, the mobile phone industry said imaging functionality in mobile phones should be used in a responsible way.

"We do not condone or encourage the use of imaging products in any inappropriate manner and urge customers not to use imaging features illegally," said manufacturer Nokia in a statement.

At the same time, the Finnish-based company considered PI's move an overreaction.

It appears unusual to single out only camera phones for this type of sensationalism
Nokia statement
"It is worth mentioning that miniature cameras have been around for many decades without prompting these reactions," it said.

"In the light of the recent popularity of key ring digital cameras it appears unusual to single out only camera phones for this type of sensationalism."

First moves

Various governments and organisations have already expressed concern over the use of picture mobile phones.

In South Korea, one of the most advanced mobile phones markets in the world, the government recommended that mobiles phones should produce a loud sound when used to take a picture.

The government also considered the use of a default flash, but plans were abandoned after concerns from manufacturers.

Intel, Samsung, the UK's Foreign Office and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratories in the US, have decided to ban the gadgets from their buildings for fear of sensitive information being snapped and leaked.

Many schools, fitness centres and local councils have also banned them over fears about privacy and misuse.

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