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Don't Say Cheese!

With cameraphones suddenly everywhere, all sorts of people are taking pictures that never would have been taken before. Do you know where your image has been?


Here’s what it’s come to: At the most recent Victoria’s Secret show in Manhattan, the event organizers confiscated cell phones. Not because they hoped to stop random chatter (“Hey, you there, making dinner reservations! Put your Nokia down and keep your eyes on the T&A!”) but because they feared random picture-taking with cell phones equipped with built-in cameras.

The random quality would have to do with the picture-taker: no longer just the sanctioned paparazzi and the occasional enterprising young buck who might have the balls to sneak in and discreetly aim a compact camera, but any bloke with a cameraphone.

I mean, you got invited to the show, but your buddies didn’t. How could you not snap and e-mail a few quick pics of Heidi Klum pouring out of this season’s naughty nightie? How could you be so selfish?

I’ve got a cameraphone now, even though I didn’t really realize I was getting one. All I wanted was a smallish cell phone with a built-in Palm organizer. But the supercool new Treo 600, available in New York through SprintPCS, comes with a built-in camera.

As recently as last year, digital cameras for cell phones were mostly bulky little attachments, purchased separately, which you had to piggyback onto your cell. With the newest phones, the only sign you’ve got a built-in camera is a not-so-telltale little camera eye, half the diameter of a dime, on the back of the phone itself.

There are already 6 million cameraphones in the U.S. alone. This year, 57 million will be sold worldwide. (Nearly every new cell phone Nokia introduced this fall has a built-in camera.)

That’s a lot of schmoes with cameraphones at any given Victoria’s Secret runway show. Or across from you in the subway. Or in the elevator next to you. Or at your next slightly drunken office party.

Before we get to cameraphone porn—you saw that coming—let’s take a few pictures, shall we?

The little eye on the back of your cameraphone is not only nearly unnoticeable, the actual act of picture-taking with a cameraphone is virtually undetectable. You don’t hold the thing up to your eye, because there’s no eyepiece to stare through. Instead, you casually hold the phone out in front of you—as if you were scrolling through your phone book, or dialing a number—and look at the image that appears on your screen. Then you click the shutter by tapping a button on the keypad. If you’ve turned off the volume on your phone, as I have (because my Treo 600, like a lot of cameraphones, emits a cute little faux shutter-snapping sound), nobody knows anything’s just been captured (a cameraphone doesn’t necessarily have a flash).

But the rest of the world, if you wish, can know almost instantaneously. In all of fifteen seconds, you can e-mail the image from your cell phone (which, with the SprintPCS Vision option, goes for an extra $10 a month) to anyone with an e-mail address. Or you can upload images to any of the burgeoning number of Websites that post cameraphone pictures. Sometimes for reasons that go beyond crude voyeurism.

Last week, for instance, the British site organized a protest called “Chasing Bush” and extended an invitation to cameraphone users to submit pictures of the president, whose visit to England was planned with an eye toward avoiding confrontations with unfriendly crowds: “If you see George W. Bush, know of a possible location ahead of time, or have images of him (or protesters) to share, then send them to:” (The site’s motto: “George W. Bush thinks he can escape an angry public. He’s wrong.”) The beauty of a cameraphone is that it can turn anyone—even those of us who could never be prompted to lug around even an ultracompact camera—into an accidental activist, or reporter.

Of course, I’d wager that the Bush daughters—Jenna and Barbara—face a greater menace from cameraphones than does their dad. The Secret Service tried (and failed) to maintain a cell-phone-free zone around Bush in England last week, but surely the twins have a much more urgent need for such a protective bubble, particularly when they go out at night.

So yes, anyway, cameraphone porn: the thriller app. Starring potentially unwilling subjects—some of them as lingerie models who don’t necessarily know they’re modeling.

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