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Frommer pushes privacy bill

February 04, 2004

Robert Chacon

Assemblyman Dario Frommer wants to send a message to cellphone-

camera scofflaws.

Frommer (D-Burbank) announced plans for legislation Monday to

protect people's privacy by requiring that all camera-equipped

cellphones sold or manufactured in California beep or make another

audible noise when they are used to take a picture. The law, if

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passed, would take effect in 2006.

The sound requirement would make it more difficult for someone to

secretly take inappropriate pictures of others without their

permission, which is a growing problem in the United States, he said.

"Cellphones are for fun, but it is unfortunate that they are used

with deviant and criminal intent," Frommer said during a news

conference in front of a cellphone store on Brand Boulevard.

In Washington, a 20-year-old man in a Safeway was arrested for

allegedly sliding his cellphone under the skirt of a woman at the

checkout counter and taking photos. Cellphones have been banned from

many health clubs because members have reportedly used them to snap

shots of other members who are undressed.

"Sexual harassment is always looking for a way to rear its ugly

head," said Pauline Field, president of the Glendale Commission on

the Status of Women, who was at the news conference.

About six million camera-equipped cellphones have been sold in the

United States since they went on the market last year, Frommer said,

adding that 51 million will be sold by 2007.

Rather than ban cellphones with cameras, Frommer's bill requires

that all cameras sold or manufactured in California make a sound of

65 decibels or louder -- the sound of a normal conversation -- when a

picture is taken.

Any person who violates the provision by disabling or lowering the

sound below 65 decibels would be guilty of a misdemeanor and punished

with a fine of $1,000.

"We would like the bill to be as broad as possible," Frommer said

when addressing a question about other electronic devices that are

camera-enabled, like Palm Pilots and digital voice recorders. Frommer

said he will investigate adding to the bill other devices that could

be used in violation of the law.

He also will look at increasing the penalties for taking unlawful

photos of someone, which is a misdemeanor and punishable by six

months in jail.

Not everyone thinks the legislation is a good idea.

"When you see legislation like this, it rarely has any provisions

for legitimate uses," said Ron Farmer, a private investigator in

Glendale who said his ability to covertly snapshots of someone would

be compromised by this bill.

Frommer's bill will include clauses excusing from penalties

law-enforcement officers or other people who use cellphone cameras

for legitimate purposes.

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