Bill Proposes Phones Must Take Noisy Pictures

Wired today reports that a new bill introduced that, if passed, would see a requirement for mobile phones with digital cameras "to make a sound" when a photograph is taken.

Introduced in the Congress by New York Republican Rep. Peter King, the bill is part of the "Camera Phone Predator Attack Alert Act" and is designed to protect people’s privacy (particularly children) when they’re using dressing rooms or in public places.

The bill states: “(a) Requirement- Beginning 1 year after the date of enactment of this Act, any mobile phone containing a digital camera that is manufactured for sale in the United States shall sound a tone or other sound audible within a reasonable radius of the phone whenever a photograph is taken with the camera in such phone. A mobile phone manufactured after such date shall not be equipped with a means of disabling or silencing such tone or sound.”

As much as we’re all about safety and privacy, especially when it comes to kids, it seems silly to think that introducing a law that says cell phone cameras should make a sound that is audible within a certain radius. Sure this will cut down on kids being exploited by pictures taken while they’re getting changed for gym or for swim practice; but with technology progressing the way it is, actual cameras are getting smaller all the time and pocketsize cameras are producing a higher quality image. Gone are the days when you needed a giant pervert lens to get a good shot.

Such a policy, however, would not be without precedent. In Japan and South Korea, all camera phones sold by law must make an audible sound whenever a picture is taken – in hopes to discourage voyeurs from taking up-skirt photos of unsuspecting victims.

There’s also the idea (as pointed out by Wired readers) that someone might be taking a picture of a crime in progress. That audible-within-a-reasonable-radius mandatory noise would snitch on the snitcher, perhaps putting him or her in danger.

Of course, the bill makes no mention of audible noises for the recording of video by a cell phone, which may open up an entire new skill set requirement for those who use camera phones for more nefarious purposes.

From our experience, more and more phones these days already ship with an audible cue during photo taking, though some phones do hush it up when in silent mode. If it passes, the bill will mean that new phones will no longer have the ability to switch off the fake shutter noise, regardless of silent mode or not.

Jane McEntegart works in marketing communications at Intel and was previously Manager of Content Marketing at ASUS North America. Before that, she worked for more than seven years at Tom's Guide and Tom's Hardware, holding such roles as Contributing Editor and Senior News Editor and writing about everything from smartphones to tablets and games consoles.