January 25, 2005 5:35 PM PST

HP focuses on paparazzi-proof cameras

The good news is you can keep the camera in your cell phone. The bad news is anyone who wants to can turn it off.

At least that's the way it might work if technology described by Hewlett-Packard makes it to market. A recent patent application from the computing giant describes a system in which digital cameras would be equipped with circuits that could be remotely triggered to blur the face in any images captured by the camera.

U.S. patent application 20040202382, filed in April 2003 and published in October 2004, describes a system in which an image captured by a camera could be automatically modified based on commands sent by a remote device.

In short, anyone who doesn't want their photo taken at a particular time could hit a clicker to ensure that any cameras or camera-equipped gadgets in range got only a fuzzy outline of their face.

Maurizio Pilu, an engineer in HP's Bristol, England, labs, says in the application that such a system would balance the proliferation of digital imaging capabilities with growing concerns about privacy.

"Increasing usage of portable camera devices means that the privacy issue of capturing images of subjects who would prefer not to be photographed has increased," according to the application. "Because portable cameras are small and are likely to be unseen by a subject, persons generally cannot choose to avoid being in the field of view of a small portable camera and are likely to have their pictures taken without their knowledge or consent."

A system that allowed people to selectively opt out of having their photo taken would address such privacy concerns without resorting to more draconian measures such as banning cameras, as numerous authorities have done with camera-equipped mobile phones.

The patent application covers technology that would have to be incorporated both into cameras and the "image inhibitor modules" that would signal "No photos of me, please," plus a system for spontaneously registering inhibitors with cameras. The in-camera technology includes sophisticated image-analysis software to selectively identify faces so they can be obfuscated.

An HP representative said the company had no current plans to commercialize the technology, which would require widespread adoption by camera makers and possibly government mandates to be financially practical.

11 comments

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This would be bad
Just think....you go on vacation take in front of the Vatican, the Eiffel Tower, Statue of Liberty....and then take a look at your picture to see your own face blurred because some prankster nearby is broadcasting that signal. What a waste! It would only be valuable if the papparazi were required to buy these cameras....no general citizen would want this feature.
Posted by trharper5 (4 comments )
Reply Link Flag
HP just lost me as a customer!
Anyone want a used wireless HP printer? This is the worst idea
of the decade. HP business I predict will now go way down hill.
Get rid of your stock now. The blogging campaign against this
company will cause this company's downfall. Hp is cutting their
own throats. Those that are wanting to take candid up skirt
photos and the like will get around this technology anyhow.
This could be the biggest threat to freedoom since chairman
Mao. Shame onHP!
Posted by xmit30 (13 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Kidnappers get away?
I remember a recent high-profile case where a 15 year old in New Jersey caught the license plate of a would-be kidnapper with a cell-camera. Sure it wasn't a mug of the guy, but the police used it to catch the perp anyway.

If pic-fuzzing tech is implemented, there could very well be one less weapon in the arsenal for authorities who nab kidnappers, burglars, etcetera.

HP, a piece of advice... hold that patent and do nothing to implement it, and you'll be doing the world a favor. Presure to have this technology working and in the hands of felons and you're going to see MASSIVE retaliation from the public-at-large.

Just my humble opinion.
Posted by (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
Not the way I read it
For the blurring to work, the camera would need to have a reciever built in. So this wouldn't affect those types of cameras.

I do agree that it is a bad idea. All this would do is cause another way to grief people, if someone was dumb enough to buy a camera equipped with this.

Since the invention of the camera, it has been possible to take someones picture without their knowledge or consent. No one has been hurt yet, as far as I know. So a stranger takes your photo, big deal. How is that going to affect the person unknowingly getting his photo taken?
Posted by (242 comments )
Link Flag
Police, Not Felons
The idea is to place this - tricknology - in the hands of the
police, not felons. Presumably, a program blurs only the image
of the owners face, not every person photographed, but only
those possessing this weapon. The police, after all, have a
greater interest in keeping their public activities absolutely
sectret from the public. Statistics show that criminals generally
ignore all cameras - banks, shopping malls, etc., when
committing crimes. This is police state thinking for the great
Amercian Police State.
Posted by (6 comments )
Link Flag
Police, Not Felons
The idea is to place this - tricknology - in the hands of the
police, not felons. Presumably, a program blurs only the image
of the owners face, not every person photographed, but only
those possessing this techno-weapon. The police, after all, have
a greater interest in keeping their public activities absolutely
secret from the public. Statistics show that criminals generally
ignore all cameras - banks, shopping malls, etc., when
committing crimes. This is police state thinking for the great
American Police State.
Posted by (6 comments )
Link Flag
Police, Not Felons
The idea is to place this - tricknology - in the hands of the
police, not felons. Presumably, a program blurs only the image
of the owners face, not every person photographed, but only
those possessing this techno-weapon. The police, after all, have
a greater interest in keeping their public activities absolutely
secret from the public. Statistics show that criminals generally
ignore all cameras - banks, shopping malls, etc., when
committing crimes. This is police state thinking for the great
American Police State, see or hear something you don't like? Not
to worry, just criminalize it! HP needs to support the First
Amendment and the principal of Open Government.
Posted by (6 comments )
Link Flag
The Eye Cannot Trespass
HP seeks a convenient way around the legal maximum that the
eye cannot trespass. Privacy requires reasonable measures on
the part of whomever wishes to maintain it. Your home, your
office, your doctor's waiting room are all reasonable measures.
Obvously, it cannot be made to apply to that which is public, as
in buildings, parks, beaches and inumerable other places where
no reasonable expectation of privacy may be had. Does HP
propose to freeze-up the artist's brush or pencil, or have they
just target photographers! This is ignorant police-state
mentality and a disappointment. I would have thought HP
leadership better educated or at least superficially informed.
Apparently, they are neither.
Posted by (6 comments )
Reply Link Flag
What is the big deal...
about cameras on cell phones... who cares... i could use a normal camera... are they going to try and block all those... this is one stupid idea and has no real application except to use against papparazii... this is as lame as the remote that turns any tv off with one click
Posted by volterwd (466 comments )
Reply Link Flag
It's not the papparazii
Public concerns about papparazii are not driving this effort, HP
could care less. Intelligence and police services don't want their
faces shown the next time they beat some black into
submission. That's where the money AND enforcement is
because most of the general public (read witnesses) will not be
using "ordinary" cameras. Film is a dead medium.
Posted by (6 comments )
Link Flag
Another reason...
Another reason for me to keep my old film cameras... :-) Remind me not to buy HP anymore. Not because I'm a serious photographer who is worried about this (I'm not worried, particularly) but because if this is the silly kind of idea that they're coming up with, then they're in for corporate trouble.
Posted by Eric.Carter (1 comment )
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