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Watch where you point that camera phone

Consumer Electronics Association publishes guidelines for responsible use of cell phone cameras

Just because you can sneak your camera phone into the locker room and take a pic of Bob shaving his back hair doesn't mean it's a good idea.

So warns the Consumer Electronics Association , the main trade group for gadget makers of all types. On Monday, it published a set of guidelines meant to defuse growing efforts to restrict the use of mobile phones equipped with digital cameras.

The group's "Camera Phone Code of Conduct" consists of seven rules meant to balance digital imaging ubiquity with privacy and other concerns. "We hope that consumers will keep in mind the public responsibility that comes with owning this type of product, and (we) encourage retailers to actively educate their customers about appropriate use of these devices," CEA President Gary Shapiro said in a statement.

The code says camera-equipped phones shouldn't be used in venues in which photography is normally forbidden, such as museums and movie theaters, or in places such as locker rooms, in which people expect a degree of privacy.

The CEA also warns against taking photos of people without their knowledge and consent. Also verboten are using camera phones to capture confidential information and "using the camera or video function of a wireless phone when driving."

Finally, "Discretion is advised when using a camera phone to take photos of individuals under the age of 18," according to the CEA.

Camera phones have proliferated rapidly in the past few years, with an estimated 1 in 10 mobile phones now sporting imaging capabilities. Research firm InfoTrends predicts there will be 656 million camera phones in use by 2008, dwarfing the market for dedicated cameras.

As camera phones have spread, so have questions about their use. The devices have been banned in gyms, schools and other areas and challenged in federal courtrooms. Two years ago, Saudi Arabia became the first and to date the only country to issue an outright ban on such phones, with leading cleric Sheikh Abdul Aziz al-Sheikh declaring the devices against Islam because they "could be exploited to photograph and spread vice in the Muslim community."