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May ban on cell phones?
By: Ravikesh Sharma

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MMS is again in news. After the DPS scandal which shook Delhi and made it aware of seriousness of mobile phones with in-built cameras it's the turn of Mumbai to sit back and notice.

A video clip featuring Bollywood stars, Kareena Kapoor and Shahid Kapur kissing in a public place in Mumbai is now being circulated on mobile phones.

While the enraged stars insist that the clips are fake, reactions from the film industry have brought the right to privacy under scrutiny.

New technology means our image can be captured and posted on the Internet within seconds. The new generation of camera phones makes the publication of photographs and Video on the web and other mobiles phone a matter of simply pressing a button.

Million of camera phone sold in last year in India. But along with their huge increase in popularity comes controversy. Camera phones are being marketed as tools for business and pleasure but what started out as a harmless gadget has left some people feeling invaded. The ability to covertly photograph and video a person and publish the image on the Internet and other mobile phones without that persons consent can easily lead to breaches of privacy.

The law authorities are in a jam because there isn't any law to prevent this menace. The privacy laws and just what is public and private still are very loosely defined in India.

In USA, many gym's and health centers are banning the use of camera phones due to fears about their misuse in public changing rooms.

Cameras have been so well integrated into mobile phones that it is often difficult to tell if a phone has a lens or not. After all how do you know if that person opposite you is sending a text message or taking your photo?

In Japan, due to the huge popularity of camera phones, and their widespread use, people have learned to recognise when someone is taking a photograph. People do not adopt the same posture when taking a photo as they do when sending a text message or making a phone call. However users may realize this and therefore take pictures in a different manner or adjust their posture and stance accordingly, maybe taking the picture in a more secretive manner. A way of helping combat the problem or to at least create an awareness of the camera would be to ensure the cameras could be made audible when taking a picture. Some believe that camera phones should have to make an audible shutter noise, alerting others that a photo has been taken. Digital cameras however do not have to make this sound, although many do but the function can usually be turned off. The decrease in size of digital cameras is effecting the way people hold them and the postures adopted whilst using them, and with no audible sound, this makes it even easier for people to be photographed illegally with a digicam. So why should camera phones be any different? An audible shutter sound would only be effective over a limited range, and an image could be sent to another phone or the Internet before you had the chance to do anything about it. Introducing a ban applicable to certain areas could help prevent their misuse in public places though this would need to be enforceable by law and not just a rule applied by the individual establishment.

There are at present some public places that have taken this into consideration. Schools and Colleges in Delhi (starting with DPS, RK Puram) have started banning cell phones in their premises after the sex scandal when a DPS' student his camera mobile phone to snap the video of a girl performing oral sex on him and when the girl breaks up with him, sends it off to a few friends of his, who in turn share the clip on the Internet. Now it is available on every single Peer-to-Peer network you can think of, getting more popular every day, but still far from the scanner of the law. Some student in IIT Kharagpur, while on his usual trip to gather porn from Peer-to-Peer networks, finds the clip, downloads it and shares it on the Campus LAN network. Another enterprising youth sees the clip as an opportunity to make money and not thinking of the consequences, starts selling the clip on Baazee and a few other popular Indian e-Commerce sites, despite it being against the site's policies.

If images are put on the Internet or a Mobile Phone, they can be made available to many people and easily misused. They could be used by fellow pupils for bullying, but more worryingly, they could be used by pedophiles.

"Mobile phone cameras additionally create huge problems for confidentiality of documents such as examination papers, thus giving rise to concern about cheating or inappropriate use of personal data."

It seems that in the future, the use of camera phones will have to be controlled in certain environments such as public changing rooms, swimming pools, schools and places of work etc, to prevent the publication of indecent pictures on the internet and other mobiles phone. This control would not, of course, be able to spread to all totally public and open places. Defining exactly where and when a camera phone can be used could be very difficult. The main function of a camera phone is not, after all, to use the digital camera to take photographs, but to make and receive telephone calls. So, would all use of the camera phone be banned or just the camera itself? If just the ability to take pictures was prohibited, how could you tell the difference between sending a text message or covertly taking an illegally picture? Yet, if use of the camera phone was totally banned in certain areas, emergency phone calls could be missed, after all many people do only carry a mobile phone for emergency use. In a society where almost everyone owns a mobile phone, it would be incredibly difficult to know whose phone has a camera and whose does not, and so policing an area would require a huge amount of time and man power.

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