Image: Qualcomm

Smartphones with front-facing cameras that are always on and can’t be turned off might be just around the corner.

The disturbing possibility has been raised by The Washington Post, which shared a report today noting that Qualcomm’s new Snapdragon chip, the Snapdragon 8 Gen 1, includes a level of programmability that would allow companies to keep the front-facing cameras of future Android devices on at all times. This would be achieved via the platform’s new Snapdragon Sight collection of camera technologies, which includes a new “Always-On ISP” that lets cameras run with extremely low power consumption.

Qualcomm on its Snapdragon Sight technology:

This new premium mobile platform takes smartphone photography beyond pro. Snapdragon Sight Technology includes the first commercial 18-bit mobile ISP, capturing over 4000x more camera data than its predecessor for extreme dynamic range, color, and sharpness at staggering speeds up to 3.2 gigapixels per second. This is also the first 8K HDR video capture in a mobile platform and it’s capable of capturing in the premium HDR10+ format that’s loaded with over a billion shades of color. Video will look even more stunning thanks to the new Bokeh Engine which adds beautiful soft backgrounds to videos; it’s like Portrait Mode for video capture. Snapdragon 8 also includes a fourth separate ISP, the new Always-On ISP, which allows the camera to run with extremely low power consumption so users can experience always-on face unlocking and locking if your face isn’t present for heightened privacy.

“The idea of a camera that stays on as long as your phone does seems deeply unsettling, even in an age where people are convinced that smartphones are already eavesdropping on our conversations,” The Washington Post writes. “So why is a company responsible for building the brains of our smartphones trying to make ‘always-on’ cameras a common feature?”

Comments made by a Qualcomm vice president during the company’s Tech Summit in Hawaii last month suggest that the technology would enable not only a heightened level of convenience, but also security.

“The always-on camera gives one very basic advantage,” said Judd Heape. “Your phone’s front camera is always securely looking for your face, even if you don’t touch it.”

Described by Qualcomm as its most advanced 5G platform ever, the new Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 chip features the company’s X65 5G Modem-RF and FastConnect 6900 Wi-Fi 6/6E technologies, which enable speeds of up to 10 Gbps and 3.6 Gbps, respectively. The chip also boasts a 7th Gen Qualcomm AI Engine for 4x faster AI performance versus its predecessor.

Source: Qualcomm (via The Washington Post)

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4 Comments

  1. Uhh…

    This is pretty awful…

    Why would you ever want this?

    Guess I’m going to have to avoid all devices with Qualcomm chips going forward…

    Using biometrics like face recognition for security is a really really bad idea either way. Making it a permanently on feature makes that a several orders of magnitude worse idea.

  2. If it includes an always on microphone too.. heck we probably already have that.

    Only use case I see is for things like dash cams and such.

  3. [QUOTE=”Grimlakin, post: 44791, member: 215″]
    If it includes an always on microphone too.. heck we probably already have that.

    [/QUOTE]
    Yep, you already have that. Ever wondered why ads suddenly start showing up on webpages after you talked to some people about a topic?

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