Tech Takes: Are the new smartphones creep enablers?

APRIL 17 — I used to think limited optical zoom capabilities on smartphones was a bad thing.

Am not sure about that anymore.

The age of ultra-zoom smartphones potentially heralds a new dawn for creeps. Who needs the paparazzi when your neighbour can zoom into your face from next door?

Sure it would be nice to be able to zoom into artists onstage at concerts, especially when you're seated far back.

Yet isn't the whole point of a concert about putting your phone down and enjoying the show?

Smartphones have been used in ways that can only be described as intrusive. Look at how social media users use their phone cameras in various ways that can only be called creepy.

The phenomenon of taking pictures of strangers you're sexually attracted to and then exhorting the Internet to help you find who they are.

Public shaming by taking photos of so-called offenders (people who don't give up their seats for the disadvantaged, terrible parkers, badly written signs) and posting them online has become the daily norm.

In Japan, one measure to help quell the privacy nightmare that smartphone cameras pose is ensuring the camera shutter sound is never turned off, even when the phone is put on silent.

That should really be the default setting on all phones because honestly people around you deserve to know if you're taking their picture without their expressed consent.

I think there's an under-served niche for those who want privacy protection. Perhaps devices that alert you when someone in your vicinity is taking a picture or ones that can alert you to the presence of hidden spycams.

Public spaces such as malls might also do well to have reminders of phototaking etiquette as well as camera-free zones where the public is not allowed to take pictures of other patrons.

It's time we tell smartphone users it's time to stop snapping indiscriminately. Learn to ask, be more discerning of the appropriateness of picture-taking.

Maybe those natives who saw cameras as soul-stealers had the right idea after all.

* This is the personal opinion of the columnist.

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