Always-on smartphone camera nightmare
Starting next year, with the release of the new Qualcomm chipset the privacy nightmare begins. Qualcomm will allow phone cameras to scan your face even if you are not using your phone.
Your phone’s front camera is always securely looking for your face, even if you don’t touch it or raise to wake it. – Judd Heape
Qualcomm’s always-on camera usage
What the Qualcomm Technologies vice president of product management wanted to state is that this new feature could be very useful. For example, you will be able to wake your phone without picking it up. Or lock the phone if it loses the sight of your face.
The benefit is obvious. But this modern technology can also violate our privacy. A camera that is always capturing images even when we are not using it sounds like the stuff of nightmares.
Now, the question is: Is the benefits from this new technology worth, to give up even more of our shrinking privacy?
You have to make your decision quite fast, because this new chipset will be used in the premium Android phones, set to be released to the public market next year.
Qualcomm’s aim is for the user to be able to unlock the phone, just by looking at it. Even if the phone is away from you, with just a glance you can unlock it.
Another scenario that the company is presenting is when another person looks over your shoulder. The smartphone will be able to simply lock without you doing anything to it.
Although these new features do sound great, I am not sure that having an always-on camera is worth another privacy tradeoff. This is really pushing it.
Privacy is the right to be left alone and free from surveillance and unreasonable intrusions. This new chipset threatens that privacy.
So, why does Qualcomm wants to have an always-on camera? They are framing it as the always-on microphone that has been installed in our phones for years. Smartphones use this mic to listen for voice commands. Have you ever used the phrase: “Hey Siri” or “Hey Google” to wake up the phone and get a response? Well the company thinks that there is a parallel between these features.
But we must note that there is a huge difference. Voice Command applications are looking for a specific wake word. While this camera is always on.
It all comes down to a level of trust. Do You trust Quacomm that the camera is set up so that it prevents this feature from being used for other purposes than the ones intended? And do you trust the equipment manufacturers that they won’t do things to interfere with the system?
Are we all going to start putting tapes over our phone cameras now?
What do you think?