Future Android Phones May Get Always On Camera

No thanks. I don't know how else to respond to this announcement by Qualcomm where they showed off the newest version of their Snapdragon Generation 8 processors. This chip supports an always on camera. The Snapdragon is the heart of nearly every Android phone on the market, not to mention many electronics out there. Mark Hachman over at PC World has more details about this privacy invasion.

Essentially, it will be able to automatically unlock your phone, but also notice when someone may be peering over your shoulder and alert you...

Qualcomm also showed off a video where a cook propped up his smartphone against a mixer, then periodically crouched down to unlock his phone and turn on the screen — and showed that the recipe that he was using. The phone can also hide sensitive notifications when someone else may be looking at it, too.

PC World

While I get what Qualcomm is trying to accomplish here, I can see the multitude of privacy issues with this setup. Even if Qualcomm down the road insists everything is processed locally. Even if Qualcomm says the data is secure without the ability for software to access it. Even with any assurance they may put out there. Without a way to turn the camera off, this is a non-starter for me (and I'm sure for others).

Apple had to do a lot of heavy lifting with getting people comfortable with Face ID. I personally trust it because everything is done in-house without one company making the chip, another the hardware, another the app that has unfettered access to the Secure Enclave, etc.

Does Qualcomm make good chips? Absolutely. They've basically cornered the non-Apple market. Only one major manufacturer has peeled away and that is Google who now makes their own Tensor chips. But think of this Snapdragon chip in a Facebook Meta Portal device. Meta is strongly motivated to take every shred of input possible. A camera that never shuts off is like catnip for them. Amazon, while not as bad as Meta, thrives on user data. It's easy to imagine a scenario where they want this technology inside their own Show devices.

If Qualcomm or a phone manufacturer is looking to avoid a PR debacle, they will need to also do tons of heavy lifting (like Apple) that takes years of trust-building and a track record of proving the technology is safe. Right now, I don't believe any Android phone manufacturer who tries to pitch this as secure.

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