'Privacy zone' blocks camera phones

'Privacy zone' blocks camera phones

Summary: Iceberg Systems' product, now in testing, could automatically switch off camera phones to protect industrial secrets and private areas

TOPICS: Networking

Companies worried about staff or visitors using camera phones to take unauthorised pictures will soon be able to automatically disable the imaging system inside certain handsets when they enter a designated wireless "privacy zone".

Iceberg Systems is beta-testing Safe Haven, a combination of hardware transmitters and a small piece of control software that is loaded into a camera phone handset. When the handset is taken into a room or building containing the Safe Haven hardware, the phone is instructed to deactivate the imaging systems. The systems are reactivated as soon as the handset is out of range.

Analysts have predicted that there will be almost a billion camera phones in use within five years, which has led companies such as Samsung and LG Electronics to bar employees from using camera phones in research and manufacturing facilities because of fears over the security of sensitive data.

Patrick Snow, managing director of Iceberg Systems, told ZDNet UK that he is already in talks with some well-known handset manufacturers that are interested in testing the technology. Although the technology is only designed for disabling the imaging system, it could be adapted for a wide number of uses, such as blocking loud (or annoying) ringtones in a bar or even disabling text messaging in a school. However, Snow is adamant that for now, his company is focused solely on controlling the imaging side of handsets.

"We don't block calls or ringtones because we have a very specific technology that addresses the camera functionality only," he said. "Once you're in a wireless privacy zone, there is the opportunity to look at other functionality that may be disabled or controlled, but that is not our focus at the moment," he said.

Currently some forms of mobile phone jamming are illegal in the UK, but Snow did not rule out expanding the product's ability to turn off other mobile phone functions if legislation changes.

Topic: Networking

Munir Kotadia

About Munir Kotadia

Munir first became involved with online publishing in 1998 when he joined ZDNet UK and later moved into print publishing as Chief Reporter for IT Week, part of ZDNet UK, a weekly trade newspaper targeted at Enterprise IT managers. He later moved back into online publishing as Senior News Reporter for ZDNet UK.

Munir was recognised as Australia's Best Technology Columnist at the 5th Annual Sun Microsystems IT Journalism Awards 2007. In the previous year he was named Best News Journalist at the Consensus IT Writers Awards.

He no longer uses his Commodore 64.

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