Picture Phones Present Privacy Concerns

June 6, 2003
Posted at: 9:34 p.m. CDT

JONESBORO, Ark. -- Technology is supposed to help improve our lives and even make things easier. But, a new gadget available on some cellular phones is exposing some people and they likely don't even know it.

Cellular phones which include a camera lens are being used in places like locker rooms and restrooms, and some cellular phone users are taking advantage of technology, full advantage. Taken in areas where clothes are taken on and off, Captured pictures are printed and posted on the Internet.

"I hadn't ever heard of that before," health club patron Cathy Lovett said. "I've never even thought about that happening before.

"I always change in the stall in the bathroom, and so I don't guess I would be exposed to that type," she added. "But there are women that do change out here."

A small circle the size of lipstick is the lens of the camera on these videophones. A user turns it over and gets the image they want to capture, then they push a button, then they have their picture. With the purchase of a certain user-package, that photo can be sent via the wireless Internet.

A user pays about $100 for the camera attachment, if their phone doesn't already have one. The cost to send four pictures per month: Around $7.

"I don't really notice cell phones floating around too much out here anyway in this area," Lovett said of the locker room area at her club. "But I guess they could be concealed. They're so small."

Club owner Steve Bowen says he hasn't had any problems with anyone in his facility using cell cameras improperly.

"But if that ever was to occur, we'd take immediate action as far as with the club membership, as well as calling the police on that issue," Bowen said.

Lovett says she'll continue her locker room ritual. She'll likely be taking a glance above and below her more often to make sure she isn't being exposed.

"I just hope I'm never a victim of it."