Point – counterpoint

Published 10:17 am Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Last week, my esteem former colleague, David Friedman (our ex-Circulation Manager who still pens a personal column for this newspaper) took issue with a little-known piece of federal legislation known as the Camera Phone Predator Alert Act.

David, as do all Americans, has the constitutional right to address any and all issues. The point of his opinion was that aforementioned legislation, as proposed by Republican Pete King from the 3rd Congressional District of New York, pales in comparison with the major issues now facing all Americans…skyrocketing unemployment in the face of thousands of businesses downsizing or shutting their doors completely in the wake of the current financial crisis. Not only is the multitude of job losses a national nightmare, but so is the fact that many of our citizens are losing their homes, their savings and their way of life.

David also touched on other major issues such as the war in Iraq, a failing U.S. education system and a growing national debt.

But on the other hand, there are other issues we must deal with as Americans. Congressman King’s proposed legislation is just one small piece of a larger picture. Thousands of such bills are debated every year by our national elected leaders. Some become law…others do not.

Following the publication of David’s opinion piece, I received a lengthy voice mail from a lady who I will not identify. She felt offended by David’s opinion, saying he was making light of a serious issue. The caller said camera phones in the hands of the wrong person is no laughing matter.

After a bit of Web research, this is what I discovered about the Camera Phone Predator Alert Act. In a nutshell, the proposed legislation would require mobile phones with digital cameras to make some sort of audible sound “within a reasonable distance” when a photo is taken. Congressman King believes this will ensure public privacy and safety, especially when it comes to children.

Any phone made after the date the bill is enacted cannot disable the sound.

Japan already requires that all camera phones, including the iPhone, make an audible sound.

My caller thought this was a great idea. Her contention was it will halt those who use a camera phone for sleazy purposes – such as “up skirt” shots or, even worse, prevent perverts from lurking in a store’s dressing room and preying on young girls and boys, or even adults for that matter, as they try on clothing.

This all sounds like a good idea to me (the camera phone making a sound, not the lurking pervert thing). However, according to my Web research, there are those who aren’t taking the matter very seriously. Their major contention is that most people do not pay much attention to the ambient sounds around them. They want to know if this legislation passes, how loud will the government require the audible sound to be made by a camera phone taking a photo.

I believe Congress should outlaw camera phones all together. The very notion has made millions of mobile phone users around the world think they are real photographers. I’ve seen some of their work (e-mailed to me). Trust me when I say it lacks quality and you don’t see me going around using my Canon 20D (a real camera) to phone home!

(Cal Bryant is Editor of the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald and Gates County Index. He can be reached at cal.bryant@r-cnews.com or at 252-332-7207.)