Letter to the editor

Digital cameras a security concern

My background is in photography, starting with traditional chemical processes and now fully transitioned into digital imaging. I began using computers with the first IBM Corp. PC.

I have been a contracted civilian base photographer for the past 15 years. Back in 1986, when I started here, security was pretty tight, with controls on information being one of the most important aspects. Physical security was also important, but "what you see here, stays here" was the watchword.

This was when virtually no one had a personal computer on his or her desk, and the ones that existed did not have much capability other than pure text. If a camera was found, it was confiscated and the film turned over to us for processing and review, then returned to the owner. This is not an effective method with digital cameras.

Information security now is almost always intended to mean information technology security. Visual information is also a big part of this but is usually not under the control or interest of an IT department.

It seems to me that one of the important elements of security would be limiting the possibility of internal surveillance and information gathering. There is a great proliferation of computers, digital cameras, scanners and ready access to the Internet with little or no oversight or regulation. The fact that an image can be acquired and transmitted to a desk in China instantly would have been totally unthinkable not long ago.

Maybe my concerns are outdated and belong back with the Cold War mentality, but it seems that post-Sept. 11, there seems to be a need to at least review what the practices and policies are in all areas, particularly on military bases. One element that makes terrorism much easier today is access to incredibly effective and almost immediate visual communication.

My purpose in writing isn't to necessarily say that no one but certain people could use digital cameras, and I'm not sure if such a thing would be practical or desirable. I am interested in a comparison or survey of government establishments to see if such policies exist and what they might state.

I would be interested in seeing an article on this subject, because after many searches, I have been able to locate nothing to indicate that that anyone is considering it. Your publication always has the most specific and insightful articles, and your connection to government personnel that are familiar with what the possibilities and concerns are would be useful.

Name withheld by request

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