Vice Squad
Wednesday, September 29, 2004
What Could Be Next? Not Allowing Women to Drive?

Saudi Arabia has made it illegal to import, sell, or (apparently) possess camera cell phones. Why? They spread obscenity, of course.

Camera phones in places where people have an expectation of privacy are quite troubling, of course -- they have made a version of the mini cameras of spy-lore widely available -- and hence they frequently are banned in such places. But to make camera cell phones illegal throughout an entire country is, well, a much bigger step. There is hope (and precedent) that the ban will be forgotten:
"First they banned dolls, then they banned stuffed toys and now this. I don't know where all this will stop," said Turki, a 20-year-old student in Riyadh who did not want to give his full name and who owns a cell phone camera he bought locally.

Last December, the Interior Ministry announced a ban on importing dolls and stuffed animals, and gave merchants three months to get rid of them.

Because of their popularity, the ban on camera cell phones could fizzle like a similar crackdown on satellite dish antennas. Several years ago, the government launched a halfhearted campaign to ban satellite dishes to placate ultra-religious factions opposed to Saudis watching foreign television channels that show unveiled women, and more.

Despite the ban, rooftops in every Saudi city are covered with them, and subscriptions to a variety of foreign channels are freely sold.
My stuffed toy comes with its own camera phone.

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