AMTA Position Statement Mobile Camera Phones: User Sensitivity not Extra Legislation

The mobile phone industry understands that the misuse of mobile camera phones is an issue that needs to be addressed. However there are more productive ways of approaching this issue than further legislation as suggested by some.

AMTA supports the enforcement of existing laws to protect people from the misuse of imaging technologies, including mobile camera phones. At the same time, AMTA considers that the most effective approach is to engender a widespread sense of proper behaviour among phone users. With that in mind, AMTA encourages users to understand and follow the sort of consumer tips which are attached to this Statement. (These are based on user conduct recommendations from the US Consumer Electronics Association).

Part of developing a sensitive user approach is to remind persons who might behave inappropriately that the offensive use of any imaging technology is already a crime in Australia. Thus the introduction of specific legislation concerning mobile phone cameras is unnecessary:

  • under Commonwealth criminal law it is an offence for ‘a person to knowingly or recklessly use a telecommunication service … in such a way as would be regarded by reasonable persons as… ‘offensive’; this offence extends to “harassing” and “menacing” and the maximum gaol term is soon to be doubled to two years; and
  • the “sending of images” is already covered by various Commonwealth, State and Territory content classification laws which prevent the publication of material which is objectionable, unclassified or unsuitable for minors.

Proposals to introduce extra legislation, which would prohibit the use of mobile camera phones in certain areas or require devices to emit a light flash and /or noise when a photo is taken, will limit customer choice, place unnecessary constraints and costs on the mobile industry and will be very difficult for governments to implement. Specifically:

  • governments would be attempting to regulate the design of mobile phone cameras;
  • legislation for the small minority of consumers who use camera phones inappropriately will limit handset choice and functionality for the great majority of consumers;
  • regulatory control would be extremely difficult because of the easy access to purchasing phones and other devices via the internet and via returning tourists and travellers; and
  • mandating design changes could inflict higher costs on manufacturers and carriers and/or limit their marketing opportunities.

The recording and imaging capability of mobile phone cameras is not a new form of technology. Various other digital imaging devices already exist, and are not subject to technology-specific regulation. Governments should continue not to be picking technology ‘winners’ or ‘losers’ through the imposition of technology-specific regulation or legislation.

                    Camera Phones – Consumer Tips from AMTA

While your new camera phone provides you with the flexibility to make a phone call and instantly take and transmit a photo, AMTA does request that you use this device responsibly.

For this reason, AMTA recommends the following consumer tips and requests that every camera phone users follows them:

  1. Camera phone users (“users”) should always respect the privacy of others.
  2. Users should always respect areas considered “private” by those who use them, for example: bathrooms, changing rooms, and gym locker rooms.
  3. Users should always respect the sensitivity of many office and industrial environments where the viewing of proprietary materials is a concern.
  4. Users should respect areas of photographic sensitivity, for example: museums, movie theatres and live performances.
  5. Camera phones should not be used to take photos of individuals without their knowledge and consent.
  6. Special discretion is advised when using your camera phone to take photos of persons under 18 years of age. It can be dangerous and possibly illegal to use camera phones while operating a motor vehicle. It is also illegal to send messages which would be regarded as harassing, menacing or otherwise offensive.

For more information on camera phone etiquette, please contact AMTA at (02) 6239 6555.