Monday, January 26, 2009

The Right to Silent Photography

So, Rep. Peter King (Republican, of New York) has introduced H.R. 414, a bill which would require mobile phones to make a sound when their digital camera feature is used.  This is supposedly to make it harder for "predators" to take indecent photographs of children and others in dressing rooms or in public, by providing an "alert" that their picture is being taken.

What this bill (the "Camera Phone Predator Alert Act", called this because it requires phones to alert the predator that they've been photographed) will actually do is allow predators, including predators in the guise of police, know when someone has used a cell phone camera to document their illegal or abusive activities.  And it won't protect against the sort of predators Mr. King is claiming it will protect against, anyway; many of them use homebrew devices that don't emit any sound (and since they're not mobile phones won't be covered by this act anyway), or will just collect and use older cellphones.  Predators aren't creatures of opportunity, after all.  They're predators; they plan their crimes and prepare for them very carefully.  All this does is force them to buy slightly different supplies.

It's well-documented that cell phone cameras provide invaluable evidence in crimes, including crimes committed by police.  Does Mr. King really expect us to believe that his motivation is to protect the children?  Or is it really to protect the police?

This bill will harm more than it will help.  Please do write your Congressional representatives and ask them to oppose this bill.