• United States

Should you worry about mobile camera phones?

Mar 15, 20042 mins
Cellular NetworksNetwork SecuritySecurity

* Camera-phone security: Not an isolated issue

I have a longtime friend who is in charge of IT network security policy at a large utility company. He said recently that his challenge du jour was how to manage (or even whether to allow) employee and visitor use of mobile camera phones.

Coincidentally, a few days later, a Gartner alert arrived in my e-mail box, notifying me that the research firm’s Wireless and Mobile Summit (taking place as I write this) would examine this very issue.

Gartner calls an outright ban of camera phones “shortsighted.” I think a better word might be “futile.” After all, pretty soon, it will be difficult to even procure a mobile phone without a built-in camera. By 2006, more than 80% of mobile phones shipped in the U.S. and Western Europe will have them, Gartner predicts.

More to the point, it’s not only mobile phones getting outfitted with cameras and posing risks. For an entertaining presentation of the wide variety of available camera-equipped devices (007 would be proud), check out the “Wireless Data Web Log” of Alan Reiter, president of consulting firm Wireless Internet & Mobile Computing, from last October: . (The “tissue-box” camera is my personal favorite.)

But seriously, folks: At what point do you simply have to rely on setting policies and trusting that your employees have enough interest in keeping their jobs – if not enough plain, old-fashioned integrity – to follow them?  It’s not a perfect world. There are of course visitors to consider, too. But the world, for all its flaws, ultimately must run on some level of trust.

If the Transportation Security Administration can’t find bags of box-cutters and bleach on airplanes – when the culprit who put them there reveals their explicit locations – is someone at your company really going to be able to police which mobile phones have cameras and which ones don’t?

And even if they could, is that a productive use of your employees’ time? Like all security decisions, the answer, of course, is that “it depends.”