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Shields for Privacy in a Smartphone World

June 25, 2012 | William Zimmerman
smartphone privacy camera.jpg
Daniel Acker/Bloomberg News

Listen very carefully to me: Don't look up. You are being watched.

That stranger, sitting across from you, although it looks like he is talking on his smartphone, is actually snapping pictures of you using a paparazzi-like app.

That's not all. At that breakfast meeting last week, when you made that snide joke about your boss, your co-worker's smartphone, innocuously sitting on the table, was recording everything you said.

Later that evening, at that restaurant, when you made an innocent, flirty joke to the server, someone recorded video of the entire interaction.

There is nothing you can do to stop any of it. Hundreds of millions of active smartphones in the world mean hundreds of millions of recording devices ready to capture your every move or utterance. Then, it is just as easy to catapult these photos, recordings or videos onto the Internet for all to share.

So how can it be stopped? Either someone invents that invisibility cloak from the Harry Potter movies, or companies will have to take a cue from James Bond movies and develop counter-surveillance products that allow us to move about without worry in public.

It could be the companies that have created these technologies that help protect us from them. For example, late last year Apple patented a technology that can disable an iPhone camera, using infrared sensors, when it is pointed at a concert stage or movie theater. It was created to prevent music or movie piracy.

But this product could be useful to regular people, too.

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