The Darkener's Console

> It is pitch black. You are likely to be eaten by a grue.

Conspiracy Theory #2: I put black tape over my cell phone camera —

When cell phones started becoming mainstream I always sort of avoided them. Maybe it’s the part of me that resists change (I loved my pager, after all). But I remember even back then in the late 1990’s, I felt like the benefits of having a constantly-on radio on your person for the sake of communicating with others without resorting to (gasp!) popping a quarter into a payphone wasn’t exactly worth the risks to my personal privacy.

Triangulation is easy, and who wants to think about their cell phone company tracking their moves, even if it’s not so literal (I am well aware that no company or gov’t agency will pay someone to sit at a computer and watch my every step). Throw in the possibility of abuse by any number of people who have (or demand) access to this information, now or any time in the future and you have a recipe for complete mobile surveillance. I don’t feel like I have anything to hide, or that I do anything “illegal” or “wrong”, but that surely doesn’t give anybody the right to collect such sensitive and personal information about me.

I get that the ability to do these things with a cell phone is part of the technology that you can’t simply throw out (radios just work that way). But maybe I’m thinking that network providers should be forced to be totally transparent with their operations, given that they deal with such sensitive information.

Open source network operations?

Now a days, every cell phone comes with a camera(s). In fact, I’m not sure if you can find one without one (besides the “John’s phone”, thanks Gnor ;) ). You know what I don’t get? Why is there no simple mechanism (or even a software switch) that disables them? The title here says “Conspiracy Theory”, so my mindset is this: Every time I look down at my phone on my desk, the kitchen table, the couch, outside, I’m seeing this camera lens staring at something. When I’m on the toilet checking my e-mail (oh shut up, you know you do it too), I can’t *help* but wonder, even if it’s a passing (heh) thought, that the camera is activated and sending pics/videos/whatever somewhere that I’m not aware of.

Yeah yeah, I’m a fucking narcissistic conspiracy theorist nut. But I’m also a network and computer systems engineer + administrator. I know that it’s possible. In fact, there’s software already out there that makes it trivial to do this on your own with other peoples’ cell phones. IIRC there’s something out there that exploits (or did exploit at one point in the past) a security vulnerability in the iPhone over Wi-Fi, and activated the camera, and sends the video back to the offender’s computer.

This kind of stuff isn’t impossible to do, and so why *wouldn’t* powers that have access to millions of peoples’ little camera lenses and network connections try to exploit it for financial (or other) gains? I don’t think it’s that far fetched to assume there are systems like this already in place. Whether or not we have explicit knowledge of these systems is sort of irrelevant IMHO. I err on the side of skepticism when it comes to my personal privacy and freedom. Call me a conspiracy theorist, or call me a patriot. What’s the difference? America fought a bloody war over this kind of stuff not too long ago. I’d hate to see history repeat itself because we forgot to remember it.

Anyway…so let’s just assume that there are systems in place that do this. Why don’t smartphone/tablet OS developers simply put in a switch that disables the camera, you know, cuts the power, just like they do Wi-Fi and cell data? Why not provide cell phone cases with simple shutters, even if not to protect us from the boogie man, to protect the lens from being scratched by your keys in your pocket?

The Nokia N900 has a physical slider-shutter for its camera lens. This is genius. It’s simple and effective. My cell phone case doesn’t have this feature (in fact, I don’t know of any other phones that do), so I’ve resorted to little black squares of electrical tape that I just stick over both front and back facing cameras. Whenever I want to use them, I just pull them off. It doesn’t leave any sticky residue, either. Works great, and let me tell you, the feeling of knowing 100% that this can’t be circumvented is enough for me. Mission accomplished?

Now I just have to worry about applying the same concept to my microphone. ;)


Categorised as: blogs | conspiracy


One Comment

  1. Gnor says:

    Don’t forget the laptop cam!

    On conspiracy theories in general, though…

    I’m sure lots of false conspiracy theories out there have been “planted” in order to make people’s default response to scoff at new theories (not yours, Darkener).

    But still plenty of them have turned out to be conspiracy facts, so we shouldn’t be so quick to dismiss them. Remember 2006 when it was revealed in a lawsuit that the US gov’t was tapping into AT&T’s fiber optic cables with AT&T’s permission?

    And yet we’re so surprised with the Snowden revelations 8 years later, which basically say “yep, they’re still doing that kind of thing.”

    I think conspiracy theories are a totally legitimate genre of speculation, given the conspiracy facts that are already known and admitted to, but we too often forget about.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.