U.S. news reports and blogs (here, here and here) are all over the fact that policymakers are fiddling with their gadgets. The proposed bill, called the Camera Phone Predator Alert Act, requires camera phones to make a sound if someone takes a photo. The reason is because “Congress finds that children and adolescents have been exploited by photographs taken in dressing rooms and public places with the use of a camera phone.”
Sound familiar? In 2004, Korea implemented that very same act, requiring Korean phone makers to make phones with a loud sound when a photo was taken. They even set a minimum in the sound levels– 65 decibels. (The proposed US act doesn’t have such details yet) The first reason was “privacy violation” because people were taking lewd pictures in fitting rooms and swimming pools. The rapidly rising image resolution of mobile phone cameras was the second reason.
Japan also has the same law, not surprising considering the fact that quite a number of Japanese men harbor a strong fetish for women’s undergarments (where else would you find a vending machine of panties?). The Tokyo subway system also plays a role in encouraging voyeurism (watch the YouTube video).
In Japan and Korea, the bill was triggered by pictures of teens (high school girls) and adult women. It seems like the US is respecting adult photos and focusing on the camera phone’s abuse of children. Even if Congress passes the bill, however, it will probably take them years to realize it. The Korean government was lucky in implementing the law because Koreans have a very short turnover when it comes to cell phones- an average Korean changes his phone at least once a year (as I recall from an old article; will have to find stats to back that up) and I wouldn’t be surprised if Japanese also change their phones frequently.
I know some people think Congress has better things to do, but hey, if people didn’t have a sick mind and kept their hands (phones?) to themselves, this wouldn’t have happened. It’s really disappointing that we had to have those few people ruin the photo-taking experience for so many of us. I take a lot of photos in museums, and for me, turning down the volume of a camera phone is an act of etiquette to other visitors.