Ask LH: Can I Disable The Cameras On Smartphones?

Hi Lifehacker, I work in mental health nursing and we have a workplace problem. My question is: can you disable the cameras on all phones and digital media players, or just some of them?

We currently use the settings on iPhones to disable the camera via restrictions. We would like to write a generic policy for all phone cameras rather than be Apple-specific. Is this possible, or will we need specific instructions for each kind of device? Is it even possible on Android or other platforms? Thanks, Camera Configurer

Smartphone picture from Shutterstock

Dear CC,

Android is a tricky space to cover for this kind of application, largely because the diversity of devices, Android versions and even manufacturer skins can make it tricky to absolutely lock down camera behaviour. There are applications that do disable the camera on Android devices such as Disable Camera device, but that specifically notes it will only work on Ice Cream Sandwich and Jelly Bean devices. In theory, if you were using a single stock Android device and had the time, you could look at ROM hacking to disable the camera as an Android service, but that’s relatively in-depth work. My own research didn’t show up a way to disable the camera at all on Windows Phone 8 or Blackberry 10 devices short of opening them up and physically removing the camera module. By the time you go down that path, you may as well just start handing out small squares of duct tape to each employee.

It sounds to me as though it’s an issue that’s best handled with a well-broadcast workplace policy rather than a technology solution; making it clear to all employees that cameras are never to be used in the workplace. Depending on the shift/security situation, I suppose it could be possible to lock employee phones down while they’re on shift in a secure location, although obviously if you have staff on-call over a wide area that may not be a suitable solution.

Any Lifehacker readers have tips or solutions for this particularly thorny problem?


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