RIM patent aims to make 'spy cam' shots a thing of the past

RIM patent aims to make 'spy cam' shots a thing of the past

Summary: BlackBerry handset maker Research In Motion has patented a system that would prevent people from quickly taking covert photographs by requiring a handset to be held still for a predetermined amount of time before a picture can be taken.


RIM has patented a new process that would stop a camera from taking photographs unless it was properly focused on the subject, thereby preventing 'spy cam'-type shots that can be the source of information leaks within a company.

The patent filing was granted by the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) on Tuesday.

"The camera restriction prevents a user from taking a picture of a subject if the device has not been steadily focused on the subject in question for a predetermined period of time," RIM said in the patent filing.

"In short, this process extends the normal camera-taking procedure and thus requires the camera user to take pictures in a conspicuous manner — the rationale being that a camera user would be less likely to take unauthorized pictures if such actions could be easily recognized," the company added.

While top of the range smartphone cameras currently pride themselves on being able to go from locked to taking a snap in around one second or less, the new RIM system would allow companies to set IT policies that restricted camera usage based on needing to keep it still for a pre-determined number of seconds.

There is no indication that RIM intends to use the feature in any of its forthcoming BlackBerry 10 devices, due at the end of January, but the company does now have the option of introducing it at a later date if business customers demand the extra layer of security.

Topics: Security, Mobility, Patents, BlackBerry, Smartphones

Ben Woods

About Ben Woods

With several years' experience covering everything in the world of telecoms and mobility, Ben's your man if it involves a smartphone, tablet, laptop, or any other piece of tech small enough to carry around with you.

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  • The Law of Unintended Consequences

    Great. So taking pictures at your kid's hockey game will be impossible. It's like they're coming out and saying "Only approved, portrait-studio-style photography is permitted with out devices".

    Just one more reason to abandon Blackberry.
    • RIM sure knows how to create an epic failure

      RIM is already ailing, but just shot itself in the foot.

      Who is going to pay for a feature that makes you wait some seconds before you can take a photo?

      RIM, you've got to be joking. Even publicising something like this (without releasing it) is going to associate your company name with stupidity, and cost you reputation and sales.
      • Re: RIM sure knows how to create an epic fail...

        Could not have said it better! This is not the time RIM should be putting restrictions on features...

        It might have been better to say in a public statement, "that if your company has sensitive issues with cameras on employee devices, etc, etc..."

        I really feel sorry for them, and don't like to see any company fail and go out of business. It just takes a bad economy and makes it worse.....

    • Wow

      Love my job, since I've been bringing in $5600… I sit at home, music playing while I work in front of my new iMac that I got now that I'm making it online(Click on menu Home)

      Happy New Year!
    • If your employer gives/rents/lets you use a BB at work it

      is NOT your device. They can set any restrictions they feel is necessary. Reality check all you whiners below.

      If this is your BB then it's not likely that you would enable this feature.
      • Ahh but the great thing is:

        With the new BB10 you have the work life balance, so you can have your cake and eat it too ;)

        With a simple flip of the switch, you go from corporate phone to personal.
        • You sure you need Bes 10?

          I've got 'balance' on my 9800 os6, bes5. Maybe there are variations... Much better than the previous corporate lockdown/proxy and can't wait to see the new os10 handsets. Still prefer my 9800 to my Wildfire OR iPhone4 so there's still plenty of life in RIM as far as I'm concerned.
    • Really, did you read it?

      Did you not see the part about it being a function that can be enabled through the BES server? This is not a default setting, just something to add security to the corporate environment.

      Man you anti-RIM people are so blinded that all you see is hate. Keep up on the Apple koolaid.
    • Don't be an ass!

      You're confused. Why would a business want you to be taking pictures of your kid at a hockey game on their equipment?

      Or for that matter why don't you care enough about your kid to get a real camera to take proper pictures of their sporting achievements?

      Phone cameras are for people who don't really care, but feel they should be seen to be doing something.

      The only issue with this is that it's one thing to restrict your equipment, but another altogether to stop people bringing their own unrestricted equipment onto site.
  • action shots!

    yup, a reason not to get a berry
    • Only One Reason ?

      I could write you an entire thesis on why not to get a BB.
      Alan Smithie
  • Doh!!

    It would be difficult to come up with something more ridiculous and counter to what a camera 'should' do than this idea.
    Having a good time? Ok everyone...just hold that great pose for a few seconds while I get that shot ok! Spontaneity be damned!
    Wow, some chick is flashing her boobs at the match....darn...she's gone.
    Kids hurtling round the house?....Hey, just stand still will you!...no chance.
    On the train? In the car?...sheesh, I'm holding it still but I'm still being jiggled about and the camera won't work...expletive deleted x 10
    ** throws phone in bin**
    I'm shocked I tell you, shocked...not.
    • Did you actually read it?

      Or did you stop at the headline?
      • No, he got it right!

        The camera is now potentially much more difficult to use for casual use, and anyone intent on using it for espionage will simply use something else!

        Rim will lose the espionage users and the normal casual users too! Double fail!
  • Not quite

    Well, the 'feature' would only be turned on by a user's IT department - so if your company is providing or paying for or allowing the use of a Blackberry at work then they have the option of restricting camera use. Your privately owned Blackberry would not be subject to the restriction. The complaint should be against your IT department for activating the restriction, not necessarily RIM.

    Quick answer - take pictures on your personal phone.
    • Exactly.

      The new BES servers can also be used by IT departments to control MS ActiveSync devices, and not just Blackberries.
  • No spycam shots?

    Ok, now just WHO is going to buy a phone with a camera that requires the picture taking be artificially slow? NOT me.
    • Again

      Did you actually read it?
    • People who read the article

      and not just the headline/extract?
  • PATENT MY AR$E, .....who did they RIM to get it ?

    How did RIM manage to obtain a patent for a time delay on the click ?
    That is not a new invention; it is a useful side-benefit of an otherwise useless logical extension of an existing system.