Mini-poll: Camera phones raising concerns

Camera phones may be the latest and coolest gadget to enter the field, but are they a threat to your security? Find out what a recent mini-poll revealed.

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Cell phones that also serve as digital cameras may be the latest tech craze, but increasingly they're also raising security issues in the workplace. This has led more security managers to ban, or at least consider prohibiting, the cool communication tools to prevent data theft or privacy violations.

A recent Security Wire Perspectives poll of corporate camera phone policies shows only 17% of 144 respondents currently ban camera phones. But another 25% are considering it.

Just under half -- 71 of those who took the online poll -- said they were "somewhat concerned" about the devices being used inappropriately or illegally. Another quarter said they were "very concerned," while an equal number weren't concerned at all.

The biggest cause for the unease: photographing paper documents (32%). Employee privacy abuse came in a close second (28%), followed by taking pictures of physical infrastructure (19%).

These concerns are in line with what Meta analyst Jack Gold has observed since camera phones first cropped up at companies. "We're recommending that unless you have a valid reason, don't buy them for your employees or let them bring them into the office," Gold said. The ban also should extend to suppliers and vendors coming into the building.

"Most companies already have a policy against cameras," Gold continues. "This just happens to be a camera of a different ilk."

That's Alan Reiter's point exactly: there are still plenty of ways to lift intellectual property. "All you have to do is go to Google and enter spyware and you'll find cameras in wall clocks and tissue boxes," he notes. "So, for the dedicated thief, a camera phone is probably a pathetic tool."

Banning the device is impractical, added Reiter, president of Maryland-based consultancy Wireless Internet and Mobile Computing. "The security industry has to understand the good and the bad of this stuff. All the technologies you have can be used for really rotten stuff, but it can be used for really good stuff too."

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