Latest Pointless Law: Requiring Cameraphones To Click When Taking Photos

from the this-again? dept

History is littered with examples of new technologies causing people to freak out. When automobiles were introduced, laws were passed forcing people to walk in front of the cars, waving red flags. Years ago, I read a great article about how when regular film cameras were first introduced, there were regulations against them, due to fears about privacy violations (I could have sworn I wrote about it on Techdirt, but now I can’t find it…). It seems that a similar concept may be showing up with cameraphones, as John writes in to let us know of new legislation in Congress that would require all cameraphones to “click” when taking a photo. The idea, of course, is to “protect the children” so that predators can’t secretly take photos. The law is similar to one found in South Korea, so it’s hardly a new idea — though it still doesn’t make much sense. Someone looking to do something illegal with their cameraphone will easily figure out a way to take silent photos. All this law will actually do is annoy those who have perfectly legitimate reasons for wanting to take photos quietly. Hell, you could just as easily come up with some silly scenario how this law would be damaging to children… such as if someone wanted to photograph a predator stalking children without the guy knowing… Anyway, vote on what you think of the law below:

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Comments on “Latest Pointless Law: Requiring Cameraphones To Click When Taking Photos”

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John Doe says:

Re: Re:

It is ironic that we pass all these laws to protect children once they get outside the womb but they are fair game inside the womb. Oh, except the husband who punches his pregnant wife and causes a miscarriage. He gets to go to jail for murder. Yet the same woman could get an abortion and be applauded for exercising her rights.

Anonymous Coward says:

few questions

what about real cameras, do they need to make the click sound also. If they it apply to one thing I think it would need to apply to both. it is just as easy to hide a camera under a blanket or in a purse and do the same thing, as part of this bill they should make hidden cameras illegal also, you should also have to annonce it to everyone in the area that you are taking a picture.

Heres just a guess but wouldn’t the stalker stand far enough away where you can’t hear the click anyways?

So congratulations to who ever introduced this, you just found another dumbass idea to waste time and money on,

Tim (profile) says:

What about video?

So we’re going to have a shutter making a stupid noise whenever we take photos? But what about perverts who decide that rather than just a photo, they want a video of that young girl on the train…

Obviously the answer is to ensure that all phones have a big flashing red light that goes off when recording video, with a loud voice shouting “Recording in progress. Recording in progress”. At least that won’t be annoying….

JJ says:


This article doesn’t even begin to dig into how absurd the law is.

Why camera phones only? Other, higher-quality digital cameras can still be silent? I can get a nice, tiny digital camera cheap. And of course a $200 HD video camera silently takes 30 pics per second, each of which is higher quality than most cell phone cameras.

So, perverts will get digital cameras to silently take higher quality photos legally, and the rest of us will be stuck with an obnoxious “feature” on our phones. It’s a potentially dangerous feature, too… already I’ve read several stories of people discreetly taking pictures of criminals (and yes, even sex offenders) on their cameraphones. That won’t be possible anymore.

John Doe says:

Maybe they should have the phone play a voice recording rather than a beep. Maybe the phone could say something like this: “Attention Attention, this is a Pervert Alert. I repeat, this is a Pervert Alert, please hide the children, someone is about to take a picture!”. Of course this would be quite embarrassing when taking legit pictures but hey, think of the children.

Devil's Advocate says:

On the flip side

Are any of you parents? Or women? It’s not just child predators, it’s also perverts who take pictures down women’s shirts or up their skirts with the innocuous seeming pretense of texting–you can take pictures in plain site with a camera phone, not quite so much with a camera. Sure, it’s not going to stop everyone, and sure it’s pretty easy to get around (take the clicking sound off! surreptitiously use an actual camera!) but it is at least a hindrance, and might break stop some people of ideas and habits before they start.

Michael Langford says:

Re: On the flip side

Again, people with “bad” intent will just disconnect the speaker before they go out to take their “bad” pictures, while honest citizens will be to afraid of the noise to take a picture at a critical moment for fear of being heard… hell I would disable my speaker just on principal alone…

fat Tony says:

A great achievement

Another amazing breakthrough in law coming out of NY.
This law is being brought into committee now by a NY rep.
He’s “protecting the children” the same way shutting down newsgroups does…or rather does not. The bill is currently in the Committee of Energy and Commerce…
Fortunately for us that committee has a boatload of more important bills to adjust and foul up. There is a good chance Rep. Amazing from the 3rd (I believe) won’t get his bill anywhere.

Anonymous Coward says:

“it’s also perverts who take pictures down women’s shirts or up their skirts with the innocuous seeming pretense of texting-“

I’m sorry, but that’s just stupid. There’s nothing wrong with enjoying what’s on display. If you don’t want people to see your body parts, then DON’T SHOW THEM!! Wear a Victorian-era outfit.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Makes sense to me.

The law proposed here sounds like it has good intentions, but its neither reasonable or sensible. Its not reasonable or sensible because there can be cases where you’d want it to be silent. Taking pictures of a cute animal in your front lawn? Oops, sound make it run away. Taking pictures of a crime in progress? Ooops, criminal heard you and is now killing you. It is extremely simple, even for non-tech savvy people to circumvent this. Download a modded sound file. Disconnect the speaker wire. Its a waste of time and money. I want my taxes to be going towards worthy pursuits, not foolish pointless things like this.

If you think its reasonable and sensible to waste money, maybe I’ll start to understand a bit better why the economy is the way it is.

BulmaRO says:

pure BS

i hate when politicians propose laws to protect the children to protect theyr electoral results, its just sickening, besides as you said if they can’t use camera phones, they still can go back to film cameras, or digital cameras or plain blunt tape to cover the speaker of the phone..

its stupid, tax-paying-money-waste and sooooooo useless.


Mark Rosedale (profile) says:

Reason to turn off the sound

I had a digital camera back in college that made a clicking sound by default. The problem was that I tend not to use the flash so if you were indoors (not low light) the shutter speed would increase, meaning that the people posing for the picture needed to stand still longer. The problem was that when they would hear the artificial click they instinctively broke the pose leading to blurry pictures. My solution to the problem was to take off the click altogether rather than try to explain to them why they need to stand still longer.

So yea there is a perfectly legitimate reason why I would want to turn off the click. Dumb law thought up by dumb people.

Twinrova says:

Dear (idiotic) politician:

I’ve a Canon digital camera that can zoom from here to the moon perfectly. It does have a slight shutter sound (only to let the user know the camera took the picture), but you wouldn’t hear it.

If I wanted to, I could easily zoom in on your house and take any photo I desire without you even knowing I was there. Then, I’d post on the internet to mock your stupidity for being caught by a “predator”.

So, are you now going to propose we, digital cameras with zoom owners, stand and wave red flags to indicate we’re taking pictures?

Of course you don’t, so why are you wasting our taxpayer money on this stupid bill? I would surely think many other things, such as health care, could warrant change much more than a cellphone camera “click”.

I’m beginning to think the older a politician is, the less likely they are to think properly despite years and years of experience.

Do us, the American people, a favor and resign.

M Thompson says:

Kinda funny...

Strikes me as funny that you title is as a “useless law”

I think I read an article on here a while ago (maybe more than 6-7 months) about how someone was in a little coffee shop/doughnut joint and the kid behind the cash register had his cell phone out while he was ringing up an order. There was something about how the writer thought the kids phone had a camera on it… and he might have taken a picture of the credit card numbers… and to be safe the writer canceled his card and got a new number issued to him.

Now I could be wrong, but I would bet it was here that I read that interesting piece of information.

At least, with this example… you can see how an audible “click” noise from a camera phone would be a USEFUL thing to have… just in case.

Mike (profile) says:

Re: Kinda funny...

I think I read an article on here a while ago (maybe more than 6-7 months) about how someone was in a little coffee shop/doughnut joint and the kid behind the cash register had his cell phone out while he was ringing up an order. There was something about how the writer thought the kids phone had a camera on it… and he might have taken a picture of the credit card numbers… and to be safe the writer canceled his card and got a new number issued to him.

Now I could be wrong, but I would bet it was here that I read that interesting piece of information.

You are, in fact, wrong. We have not written about anything along those lines. In fact, the only post we’ve written on that topic is how there were fear-mongering reports about such photos being taken, but no proof that it had ever actually happened.

Danny (profile) says:

This is true, I am not making this up to make a point

Last night my wife and I were trying to take pictures of our new kittens sleeping. They looked very cute.

But the camera generates an artificial shutter noise (and a noise with the redeye light a moment before the shot). So most every picture caught the kittens reacting to the noise, rather than in their natural position.

wnyght says:

why is it ALWAYS about the children. D@mn, it’s amazing any of us made it to adulthood with all these “dangers” that are looming over the children everywhere they go. I’m so sick of hearing “what about the children”.

I will let you all in on a little secret. When ever something doesn’t make sense, look to see who is making money, or stands to loose money or power from it. There you will find your answers to “WTF?”

bubba says:

get rid of the children

I’d like to see a law where you need a permit to have children. Pass a few “I am probably not insane” tests, take a few classes and you get your permit. This gives you a modest tax credit. You don’t need the permit to have children but you dont get the tax credit without it. On the other hand, fail it, and get sterilized and you get it too. Negative retard growth can only help.

Shane says:

Father of 2

I take “quiet” pics with my camera phone every time I’m at one of my childrens’ Xmas programs, dance recitals, ball games, etc. Holding up a phone that makes a loud synthetic “click” at many of these events is annoyingly rude! This will just be another law that inconveniences the masses and does nothing to prevent the perps…

GibsonAV says:


Wonderful idea. Now the next person who gets in trouble will be willingly breaking 9 laws instead of 8. Way to go guys. Whose idea was this? The anti gun lobbyists?
Let’s see some of that “change” we keep hearing about and get to work on REAL issues.
And steer clear of the “for the children” button. Never works out for anyone but the media crowd anyway.

Kirk says:

Polling the Techdirt readers

Hi Mike,

If others have made this point, I hope you’ll forgive me. The polls you include should say “What Techdirt readers think…” rather than “What People think.” I know some will see it as pointless, but if your readers are to be a force for change, they should not forget that their views are not the views of most people. It’s important because that realization informs our arguments, and it’s entirely too easy to alienate someone with assumptions about their opinions. We should all keep in mind that most people probably think protecting the children is a good idea; if they didn’t, this brand of political folderol would not work. Still: It’s your forum.

Keep up the good work.

TheBlackHole (user link) says:


This is useless. Might as well make every cellphone have a loud, obnoxious ringtone (RIINNGG!!!!! RINNGG!!!! I’M RINGING, WHY THE —- WON’T YOU ANSWER ME?! AAAAAAAGGGGGHHHHHH! I WON’T STOP SCREAMING UNTIL YOU ANSWER ME!!! AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAGGGGGGGGGGGGGHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!) or make all browsers emit a giant explosion sound when they’re loaded, scaring kids away from the computer so they can’t look at anything even slightly objectionable, and pass all kinds of other laws to keep everyone in a block of carbonite (figuratively) until they’re 18. Why not simply make people take a “pervert test” before they can legally have a phone? Then again, my proposed solution will disappoint all those stupid politicians who always think “The more pointless and restricting laws, the better.”

Not buying a new phone says:

Many laws are proposed and not made into law.

Reading all this in 2017, because I was interested in a new phone that said you couldn’t turn off the sound due to ‘regulatory requirements’.

Norm lobbied readers into complacency? And your right to have a quiet phone was taken away?

Sounds like its a law now.

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