The life of a student, especially at U of T, is busy and stressful and tiring. Between the hundreds of pages of reading assignments, countless essays, and limitless tests and quizzes, most of us feel lucky to be able to get our schoolwork done on time. Often we are so caught up with our work that despite our very best intentions, the gym can get left out of the daily routine. So it may be that by the time many of us finally make it out to the Athletic Centre we feel the need to commemorate the event on celluloid. That being said, if a picture were taken in, say, the changerooms, most of us would probably want to know about it and then promptly destroy it.
For that reason, cameras have never been allowed in the AC-at least not for the last ten years or so-and members have been able to rest easy. In fact, the no camera policy has been working quite well.
“It really is enforced on a member-to-member basis” says Lanna Crucefix, manager of public relations at the AC. “People often get uncomfortable when someone they don’t know is taking a picture and so they complain. Since I started working here in September we’ve had about five complaints about cameras.”
But if conventional cameras seem to have been kept under control at the AC, a new menace threatens members’ privacy: the cell phone camera. So warns a faculty newsletter sent out by the dean of the Faculty of Physical Education and Health, Bruce Kidd.
Strange as it sounds, the coming of the cell phone camera is not as innocent as it may seem. Cell phone cameras are small, easy to hide, and can send and post images instantaneously, thus making them a far greater threat to privacy than other cameras, including digital ones. In places like the AC locker rooms, a person who may appear to be sending a text message or talking to a friend could really be sending pictures of fellow, possibly nude, patrons around the world.
A relatively new phenomenon, cell phone cameras are becoming more and more popular and, consequently, more and more alarming. Research firm IDC predicts that by 2007 nearly half of all cell phones in the U.S. will be equipped with cameras.
The increased popularity of cell phones has many organizations concerned. Cell phones with cameras are entirely banned in Saudi Arabia and other countries are in the process of developing less stringent, but still effective, laws. Organizations, too, are taking measures to protect themselves. Even Samsung, the world’s third largest producer of cell phones and the company generally credited with developing the first camera handset, has banned camera phones in many of its plants to prevent professional espionage.
Still, it seems that relatively few people are even aware that they should be concerned. “I never notice people on cell phones,” said one AC-goer. “Everyone has them. You really stop noticing.”
That, in a nutshell, is the problem the AC staff are confronting. “We really want to raise people’s awareness,” says Crucefix. “We want to make people aware that cell phones really can be taking pictures and members should be aware.”
So far, no one has been caught using a cell phone to take pictures of unwitting patrons. Of course, that doesn’t mean it hasn’t been done. Crucefix and her staff, however, hope that by increasing members’ awareness the potential storm will never hit.