Peeping Tom filter lets phones see through bikinis

A phone that lets you see through clothes is the stuff of teenage boys' dreams--and now a Japanese developer claims it's a reality.

A developer in Tokyo has created an add-on for Vodafone handsets that's meant to be used as a night filter to let people take pictures with their phones in the dark.

Unfortunately, the night vision camera has an unexpected side effect, according to Japanese developer Yamada Denshi. In the right circumstances, it allows users to see a lot more than they bargained for.

As well as taking snaps in the dark, the Yamada Denshi infrared filter apparently sees through people's clothes. When attached to a high-end camera, the device can give the effect of seeing through some garments--it depends on how easily infrared can penetrate the fabric in question--and is reportedly particularly effective on dark bikinis.

The handset most often used with the filter--the V602-SH--is available only in Japan.

A Vodafone spokeswoman confirmed that the Peeping Tom accessory isn't a problem outside of Japan. She added that because Yamada Denshi is a third-party supplier, Vodafone's control is limited. "They are not an approved third party," she said.

"We would never go to market with a phone with any kind of capacity to see people naked," she said.

Camera phones have long prompted fears of voyeurism, leading several gyms to ban them to prevent people from using them to take inappropriate pictures.

Voyeurism with camera phones became such a problem in South Korea that the government ruled that phones must make a noise when pictures are taken.

Jo Best of reported from London.