Should Silent Camera Phones Be Illegal?

New bill would require cell phones to click when a photo is taken.

ByABC News
January 28, 2009, 3:03 PM

— -- Could a simple sound stop a predator?

Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., seems to think so.

The congressman has introduced the Camera Phone Predator Alert Act, which would require cell phones with built-in digital cameras to make a sound when a picture is taken.

"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," according to King's bill, introduced earlier this month.

By mandating phones that click or "sound a tone" whenever a photo is taken, King, the sole sponsor of the bill, hopes to address this.

"Camera phone technology has become another one of the many avenues through which child predators prey on children, and I believe we must do all we can to deter this behavior and protect the children in our communities," King said in an e-mail to "I introduced the Camera Phone Predator Alert Act so that parents and children can be alerted when these criminals try to exploit our children in public places."

Despite King's good intentions, some experts argue this bill is sorely misguided.

"This seems to be a solution in search of a problem," said Sascha Segan, lead analyst for mobile devices at PCMag Digital Network. "I haven't seen any reputable source saying that there's a major problem with secretly taking dirty camera phone photos [in the United States]."

In Japan and Korea, Segan pointed out, in response to mounting reports of "underskirting," governments have passed laws similar to the one King proposes.

On extremely crowded trains in those countries, men would hold their camera phones under women's skirts and snap away. "Downblousing," which involves similarly intrusive picture-taking, has also been a problem, experts said.

But despite the ubiquity of camera phones (according to market research firm NPD Group, 83 percent of the cell phones sold in 2008 had built-in cameras), these issues seem to be unique to Japanese and Korean society, Segan said

When contacted several child safety organizations, none of them could point to quantitative research demonstrating that silent camera phones pose a serious threat to public safety.