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'Poke your camera phone's eye out' – analyst

Businesses face new liabilities

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The Meta Group has warned companies to have a corporate policy that limits cameraphones being used on premises.

Analyst Jack Gold told us that cameraphones posed liability issues for corporations. How, we wondered?

"Next year's designs could be snapped and sent to a competitor," said Gold.

"Do you want people running around taking pictures of someone picking their nose?" he asked. (A thousand times, yes, Mr Gold - we thought to ourselves, although the value to us really depends on who's doing the picking.) But camera phones allowed company staff to be caught in other compromising positions too, he argues, most vigorously.

So we had to ask, which staff would be most at risk from being caught in a compromising position? The CEO?

Gold agreed.

"And probably the CFO after that?" we mused.

"You get the point," Gold said, steering us back to the thrust of his advice. He wants corporates to have a procurement policy that limits the purchasing of phones to non-camera models, even though this might limit employees to low functionality, low end models.

But this is increasingly hard to do, as cameras are becoming increasingly ubiquitous on cellphones. What should purchasing departments do?

"Poke it's eye out," said Gold.

Poke it's eye out?

"Yes. Make it blind."

Faced with such Old Testament urgings, we moved swiftly on.

We've heard a lot of marketing spiel from software vendors - in fact, if The Guardian newspaper is to believed, IT staff are talking about nothing else - about how companies should encourage a culture of weblogging in their organisations.

But what about cameraphone owners who blog? Surely, we asked, allowing them onto the corporate premises would be like strapping a bomb to the organization, and giving the detonator to a monkey?

"Sure," agreed Gold.

"Blogging and IM are just an extension of what corporations fear from employees using email - if they get sued, look what they've left behind." It's true, as we've noted before, that companies who have successfully stayed out of trouble have very strict policies about what's written.

Alas, we fear, Jack may be going a little over the top. Taking a surreptitious photo on a visit is difficult, and sure to attract the attention of a minder. The determined spy may as well get wired up with a dedicated surveillance device. Jack agreed. A discreet camera, such as a Canon Elph would do a much better job. But employers have to grant employees some trust degree of trust, otherwise we may as well remove all Xerox machines from the premises, too.

And cameraphones could equally prove to be boon to the whistleblower.

So remember, if you do have a picture of your CFO in a compromising position, you know where to send it first. ®

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