10 February 2006

Camera Phones—your stalker's wimping out

Two unsurprising reports, amusing in juxtaposition: first, the SF Chron:
(May 16, 2004) The latest fad in cell phones — built-in digital cameras and even camcorders — lets people easily capture snippets of everyday life, but the enormous potential for abuse has businesses and organizations scrambling.

With camera phones, peeping Toms can snap revealing shots in gym locker rooms. Amateur paparazzi can stalk celebrities. Cheating students can peek at test answers. Crooked employees can copy confidential plans. Identity thieves can capture credit card numbers.

Moreover, the ease of beaming photos allows voyeurs to post "up skirt," "down blouse" and other compromising photos on the Internet for all to see.
Of course, if someone is trying to blackmail you, don't fret excessively:
IN-STAT (promotional email): A camera is considered by many users to be one of the most desirable features in wireless handsets, yet, evidence suggests that only a tiny percentage of camera phones are used regularly to transmit pictures or to store for later use, reports In-Stat (http://www.in-stat.com). Less than a third of camera phone owners surveyed by In-Stat indicated that they share picture messages with friends, the high-tech market research firm says.

"People who haven’t yet purchased camera phones are very enthusiastic about all the uses for their images," says David Chamberlain, In-Stat analyst. "However, once they start using their new phones, they are turned off by perceived poor picture quality, slow network speeds, and the difficulty of creating and sending pictures. Our survey found that very few pictures actually make their way out of the handset to be shared with others."

A recent report by In-Stat found the following:

  • Those who now use camera or camcorder phones say that they are less likely to replace their phones in the near future than other users.
  • There will be from 300–850 million mobile users that will send at least one image per month across the carrier network by 2010.
  • Only one in 20 camera phone users prints pictures or stores them on carrier-provided web sites. 28% of current camera phone owners actually share pictures using messaging service, compared with nearly 60% who hoped to before purchasing their camera phones.

I expect the job is inherently too taxing. The technology is surprisingly good for direct uploads, but the TV sitcom scenario of an omnipresent digital polaroid is overblown: transmission is unsatisfactory, in large measure because the phones are too small. And it takes too much effort to actually decide what to do with the staggering proliferation of digital mementos.

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