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Click a camera phone at your peril

By Nick Easen for CNN
You may find that some offices overseas ban camera phones due to incidences of corporate espionage.


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LONDON, England (CNN) -- As cameras become a common feature on mobile phones, travelers are becoming increasingly aware of when they can or cannot use them.

Some are using camera phones to complain about substandard hotel rooms by snapping photos and then e-mailing them back to their travel supplier at home.

Travel Web site, Travelocity, as well as others now offer services for camera phone users.

Travelers can make and send postcards to friends and family by e-mailing a photo, message and address to the operator's picture service. Then a mobile imaging company sends out a physical card anywhere in the world using the postal system.

Then there is the mobile blog, also known as the moblog, where photos and text are instantly uploaded to people's Web sites -- this a proliferating phenomena in Singapore, South Korea and Japan.

If you are there on business -- after a night out on the town -- you may unsuspectingly find a photo of yourself on someone's Web log on the Internet for the world to see.

Hanging out at a gym or spa in Australia or India? Remember some places have banned the devices.

And if you have business at Honda Motor's headquarters in Japan, do not bring one to their office, they have barred camera phones to guard against industrial espionage.

"It is best not to take pictures unless there is a business need and you have permission from your co-workers," says Gwyneth Olofsson, author of "When in Rome or Rio or Riyadh" -- a book covering cultural aspects for business behavior.

The Japanese have even generated a crime known as digital shoplifting, in which camera phone users photograph the pages of magazines instead of buying them -- so if you are in a Tokyo bookstore careful about bringing out your phone in public view.

Whereas if you have something stolen in Osaka, you can send a photo or video clip to the Osaka Prefectural Police Department.

The police in the city have set up a "photo hotline" where crime-busting citizens can e-mail pictures of potential suspects or suspicious-looking objects directly from their camera phone.

Indians have also woken up to the potential of the camera phone following a "sex-clip" scandal, which involved two New Delhi school children, and another clip showing two film stars kissing.

Camera phones are now banned in some Indian factories.

"These days you have to be more other conscious rather than self-conscious when overseas," says David Solomons, chief executive of cross-cultural communications firm CultureShock!Consulting.

To help, late last year Samsung India released guidelines on mobile phone etiquette for camera phone users, in order to promote responsible usage.

In India, people are advised not to use camera phones in public places such as swimming pools, changing rooms, gyms, high security zones and airports.

In most of New Delhi's spas and health clubs, camera phones are not allowed, while some of the city's hospitals have implemented similar policies.

Other handset manufacturers operating in India, such as Nokia and Motorola, now tell their customers about ethical usage each time a camera phone handset is sold.

In New Delhi, visitors including journalists are not allowed to carry camera phones into the Indian parliament, foreign ministry, defense headquarters, key government offices and foreign embassies.

Countries where camera phone use maybe an issue are as follows:

  • In South Korea, nude photos of unsuspecting people have turned up on the Internet. As a result, the country now requires that all camera phones made in the country emit a beeping noise when photos are being snapped.
  • Japan has already jailed people for using camera phones to peek up women's skirts. There is an entire photo genre known as "Upskirts."
  • Taiwan's military personnel are barred from bringing camera phones to armed forces installations.
  • At sensitive areas in Thailand, including airports, foreign embassies or other places where security is an issue, the authorities have erected signs forbidding the use of cameras.
  • In Australia, anyone found to have taken a photo of someone without consent in a state of undress or engaged in a private act such as bathing or having sex faces two years in jail.

    Also in Australia, gyms and some swimming pools have banned camera phones, as do some companies that are fearful of corporate espionage.

    Last December a 25-year-old man was convicted of offensive behavior for snapping topless women at a Sydney beach. He was fined and a court ordered the destruction of his camera phone.
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