• button only@2x Facts you should know | Why all cellphones camera in Japan shipped with shutter sound?

I sup­pose you have a cell­phone.

Now, take out your cell­phone, try to take a Sha-mail. (写メ, pho­tos taken by cell­phones, “sha” comes from “Sha-shin”, means photo)


Ka-chik, Ka-chik…


You heard the shut­ter sound. But It’s so incon­ve­nient when we want to take a photo in a class or some quiet places. Now, try to turn off the shut­ter sound.






WHAT?! We can’t turn off the shut­ter sound!!!

Yes, all cell­phones in Japan must have the shut­ter sound and it can’t be disabled. Do you know why?

This phe­nom­e­non is actu­ally highly related with the Pri­vacy issue in Japan.

Why all cell­phones cam­era in Japan shipped with shut­ter sound?

iPhone camera to iPad 300x200 Facts you should know | Why all cellphones camera in Japan shipped with shutter sound?

As you may know, the world’s first built-in-camera cell­phone appeared in Japan in 1999. This was an inno­v­a­tive inven­tion of Tech­nol­ogy at that time. Within a few years, almost all cell­phones in Japan came stan­dard with a built-in cam­era.

How­ever, the dis­turb­ing side effect of the pro­lif­er­a­tion of the built-in-camera cell­phone raised a prob­lem of voyeurism, which was a rapid rise social issue so-called up-skirt pho­tog­ra­phy — snap pic­tures while aim­ing up a woman’s skirt.

As the pop­u­lar­ity of sha-mail played an impor­tant part in the dis­sem­i­na­tion of cell­phones at that time, phone car­ri­ers seemed to have been con­cerned about the neg­a­tive image caused by illicit pho­tos. As a result, all cell­phones with built-in cam­eras shipped with a shut­ter sound that played when a photo was taken — and it could not be dis­abled. This was not some­thing that was required by law, but it was taken up vol­un­tar­ily by all Japan­ese cell­phone ven­dors. These self-regulations have never been made pub­licly avail­able, but NTT Docomo told The Japan Times that they imple­mented it to “pre­vent secret film­ing or other pri­vacy issues.” — cited from Japan Times


There­fore, we can see that Japan soci­ety has a very strong sense of pro­tect­ing pri­vacy issues. It is inter­est­ing that all cell­phone car­ri­ers and man­u­fac­tur­ers have coop­er­ated together to make the shut­ter sound stan­dard. It is not required by the laws, it is all taken up vol­un­tar­ily. We can see how impor­tant a pri­vacy issue is in Japan soci­ety from this point.

And by mak­ing the shut­ter audi­ble, no one can point the respon­si­bil­ity of the voyeurism to the man­u­fac­tur­ers of cell­phones. Isn’t it a win-win solu­tion?

Even Apple also cus­tomized for Japan

Apple, as we know, is famous for cre­at­ing a sin­gle model of its prod­ucts to the global mar­ket. It is hard to have Apple cus­tomize a cer­tain fea­tures for cer­tain coun­tries for it is against their pol­icy.


That is, they did not add such stan­dard Japan­ese fea­tures as 1-seg TV, an IC wal­let or an earth­quake alert (though alerts were later added). Even though those fea­tures might have helped gain more Japan­ese users, Apple chose the sim­plic­ity of global logis­tics.
– cited from Japan Times


How­ever, 1 thing they did change for Japan — the unre­mov­able shut­ter sound of the iPhone cam­era. I real­ized this when I went back to my coun­try — Malaysia, where all my friends can dis­able their iPhone shut­ter sound, except mine.

Even so, there are still plenty of smart­phone apps can help dis­able the shut­ter sound. This is wor­ried by the Japan police that it may encour­age voyeurism.


On a news pro­gram on NHK in Jan­u­ary this year, Tokyo Met­ro­pol­i­tan Police said that there were 615 arrests for cam­era voyeurism in 2012 — a 24 per­cent rise from 2011, and up 60 per­cent from 2007. Of those arrested 64 per­cent had used cell­phone cam­eras. Most inci­dents occurred dur­ing train com­mutes.
– cited from Japan Times

Naruhodo! OIC!

Tech­nol­ogy is always a double-edged sword. On one hand, it improves our life qual­ity, on the other hand, it encour­ages vio­la­tion of pri­vacy issues.

How­ever, the soci­ety should keep mov­ing for­ward, which means the evo­lu­tion of tech­nol­ogy is unavoid­able. Although the built-in-camera cell­phones indeed did cre­ate some dis­turb­ing side effects as soon as its rise, the solu­tions and pre­ven­tions were gen­er­ated by the inter­est groups vol­un­tar­ily, to pro­tect the soci­ety from being destroyed by the tech­nol­ogy.

Since we can’t stop the tech­nol­ogy inno­va­tion, the real solu­tion for the social prob­lems should be edu­ca­tion. The qual­ity of human should be improved as well along with the tech­nol­ogy. The real cause of the voyeurism is not the cell­phones, but the human.

It is inter­est­ing to think about the com­ing new tech­nol­ogy — Google Glass — which is said to be able to enable the wear­ers to video some­one they are look­ing at with­out that per­son know­ing. Do you think it will be another pri­vacy argu­ment in Japan along with the intro­duc­tion of the google glass?

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Shen Lim avatar 1388770677 80x80 Facts you should know | Why all cellphones camera in Japan shipped with shutter sound?
A Malaysian, blog­ger, vlog­ger, a col­lege stu­dent study­ing in Kyoto. When he is not study­ing for his school cred­its, he writes arti­cles and makes enter­tain­ing videos about Japan. He believes 1 day his videos can bring Japan and Malaysia together. Read more ABOUT him. Google