The Perils of Cameras in Mobile Devices
Last week, Motorola launched its new MC9500-K handheld device with a list of features that would have made Ron Pompei envious. The device that looks like a cross between a Star Trek phaser and tricorder includes an infrared bar-code scanner, Windows Mobile, motion-detection technology, GPS, a cell phone and a 3-megapixel camera.
It's the camera that got me thinking. Motorola justifies putting a camera in the device for, among other reasons, compliance purposes. The MC9500 is perfect for delivery services, such as FedEx and UPS. In Europe, delivery services are responsible for packages even after they've been delivered, so a quick snapshot can show the position and state of a parcel.
But it's the other compliance issue - the human resource kind - that has me thinking. Manufacturers are putting still and Web cameras into all kinds of devices that often operate outside the corporate domain. Users have demonstrated time and again their capacity for unauthorized and illicit use of corporate devices. Now that everything from the iPod to the Motorola MC9500 has a camera built in, how should businesses both monitor and enforce appropriate use of imaging devices?
Yes, there are many legitimate uses for a camera in cell phones and portable computers. Recently, a motorist used his iPhone's camera to snap a picture of two snoozing security guards on the George Washington Bridge leading into Manhattan. If a driver gets into an accident, he can take pictures of the damage. Surveyors and property assessors can photograph buildings and lots as part of their inspections. And, as Motorola points out, delivery drivers can take a snapshot of packages to prove not only that they made the delivery, but where they left a box and its state when they left.
Unauthorized camera use and inappropriate photos will be subject to the same HR actions as dirty jokes and pornographic images sent and shared over corporate e-mail. The difference is that users may not think about the use implications because they're dealing with mobile devices that only physically attach to the network on a periodic basis.
The MC9500 and most smartphones don't have centralized management applications for pulling down and logging photos. But give it time; some inventive ISV will come up with an app for managing photos across mobile devices in the field and associating images with time/date stamps.
Without a doubt, there will be less appropriate photos taken, and each one of them will be worth more than 1,000. Solution providers are being called upon to install, support and manage mobile devices and their supporting infrastructure. It's probably a good idea to include a primer on appropriate use along with the operating manual.