At the same time that the Obama administration is underwriting hardware for helping citizens of other countries circumvent their own government’s Internet censorship, Apple is patenting a camera that performs a government’s censorship for it.

I’m sure Steve Jobs is under pressure to throw a bone to the copyright industries in his mission to enable users to download and stream movies via Apple services. And I know this measure is intended to thwart pirates from recording films in theaters.

Nevertheless, the ability to compose and record the world around us is the visual equivalent of net neutrality–a right that is fundamental yet easily compromised by caving to commercial interests. Without “camera neutrality,” we could live in a world where police beatings and oil spills don’t exist, corporate logos shine brighter than their surroundings, and you could never take a photo of a sailor kissing a girl on VJ Day because Times Square is copyrighted.

Then again, the device might have spared Anthony Wiener his congressional seat.

Apple Camera Patent Lets External Transmitters Disable Features

[An onboard] camera system that would include circuitry for processing external infrared signals. The data received from these signals could then be used to present information to the user of the device, or even to modify the device’s operation. “For example, an infrared emitter could be located in areas where picture or video capture is prohibited

SaveTheInternet has created a petition to get Steve’s attention, but for it’s part Panasonic is putting a positive spin on cameras with built-in bias: 

Panasonic Launches Beautifying Camera

…LUMIX FX77 camera can take the red out of your eyes and add it to your lips and cheeks. Released last Friday, the camera has a “beauty re-touch” feature that can whiten your teeth, change the size of your eyes, and can apply rouge, lipstick, or eye shadow. 

Nintendo is sidestepping the issue with their 3DS: you can take any picture you want, as long as you sign it over to them.

The FSF’s Campaign Against the Nintendo 3DS

The Nintendo 3DS’s terms of so-called service, and the even more grotesquely-misnamed privacy policy, make it clear that you are in the service of Nintendo. Specifically, anything you do, write, photograph, or otherwise generate with the 3DS is Nintendo’s possession, for them to use however, whenever, and for as long as they want. On the other hand, if you do something they don’t like, they’re prepared to turn your device into a doorstop — and you gave them permission when you started using it. And if you have a child’s best interests at heart, don’t give it to anyone too young to know to never use her real name, type in an address or phone number, or take any personally-identifiable photos. They might, at best, end up in a Nintendo ad.

Not to be outdone, colleges are trying out their own high-tech ways to prevent cheating:

“No gum is allowed during an exam: chewing could disguise a student’s speaking into a hands-free cellphone to an accomplice outside. The 228 computers that students use are recessed into desk tops so that anyone trying to photograph the screen — using, say, a pen with a hidden camera, in order to help a friend who will take the test later — is easy to spot. Scratch paper is allowed — but it is stamped with the date and must be turned in later. When a proctor sees something suspicious, he records the student’s real-time work at the computer and directs an overhead camera to zoom in, and both sets of images are burned onto a CD for evidence.”

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