Light Bulb Confuses Phone Cameras To Protect Privacy

Light Bulb Confuses Phone Cameras To Protect Privacy
Design & Architecture

Researchers have created an LED light bulb to disrupt the image a phone camera takes

Zack Palm
  • 30 october 2017

As developers turn smartphones into more versatile tools, their owners want to bring these devices everywhere. However, this sometimes leads to invasions of privacy. Researchers from the University of California, San Diego, want to lessen the range of a smartphone’s camera with the creation of an LED called LiShield.

While the LiShield provides a perfect amount of a light for a human, it distorts and causes problems for cameras by causing an off-and-on series of black lines across the screen when someone tries to take a picture. The LEDs do this by giving off a specific waveform the camera can pick up, but a person cannot. The camera detects these waveforms through the sensors on the smartphone, causing the black stripes to show up on the screen. LiShield’s waveforms also make it difficult for the photographer to try and recover the image in its entirety.


The distortion LiShield produces does not offer a uniform form of privacy or protection for someone changing, as the strips only withhold part of the image, not the entire thing. An additional problem exists as the LED’s waveform gets interrupted when introduced to natural light, making it obsolete for outside areas. However, this technology the researchers created is a step in the right direction to helping prevent someone take an illegal recording. The waveform a LiShield produces can come with a barcode, which websites like YouTube can scan for to identify which videos they wish to take down.

In the future, companies looking to guarantee privacy could reach out to the hardware teams behind the smartphones to develop a variety of light that will obscure the photos, even making the camera inoperable during live events, such as comedy shows.


The researchers behind LiShield have a finished product, but do not have any current plans for a release.



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