Can I remove or diable my camera from my cell phone?
January 22, 2009 7:08 PM   Subscribe

Can I remove or disable my camera on my cell phone?

I have a Verizon LG cell phone that I think is model LG VX5400 (I don't have the manual available at the moment, but it looks like that model on the website). My living situation is somewhat complicated, but without going into an extended explanation, I cannot have a phone with a working camera for security/privacy reasons. Before buying a new phone without a camera to replace this one, I'm wondering if it is possible to disable the camera on this phone, either by physically disabling the lens, or by some other means (could Verizon disable it)?

I already asked about simply covering the lens with permanent marker or nail polish, but this is unacceptable because nail polish can be rubbed away. It looks like I could take a knife (or a hammer) and try to pry away or smash the lens, enough to disturb functioning, but I am obviously worried about breaking the phone entirely.

Does anyone have any suggestions, or is my best bet to see if I can damage the lens without breaking the entire phone? I only use the phone for talk, and don't really care about any of the other functions.

Thanks!
posted by btkuhn to Grab Bag (17 answers total)
 
Scrath the hell out of the lens with steel wool, or something of the like?
posted by captainsohler at 7:16 PM on January 22, 2009


Is the lens plastic? You could melt holes on it with a hot nail.
posted by Memo at 7:20 PM on January 22, 2009


A small amount of silicon glue (or something similar), carefully applied, would render my phone camera lens useless. It might do the same for yours.
posted by bunglin jones at 7:27 PM on January 22, 2009


Yeah, I like the glue idea. If done carefully, you could put a difficult-to-impossible to remove barrier over the lens without risking damaging the rest of the phone.

Obviously, all this stuff will void the hell out of your warranty.
posted by selfnoise at 7:29 PM on January 22, 2009


In my experience most facilities that disallow camera phones will still not let you bring in a phone with a manually disabled camera unless it's totally clear that the camera will not work. I'd say you should try to see if you can totally remove the camera element by taking the camera apart.
posted by frieze at 7:33 PM on January 22, 2009


...err, taking the phone apart.
posted by frieze at 7:33 PM on January 22, 2009


I would glue a piece of thin, opaque plastic over the lens, using cyanoacrylate (Krazy Glue) or similar. Those types of glues actually melt plastic together, so they are very difficult to pull apart without damage.

I don't quite get the underlying reason for this need, but if it's a mandated security measure (like going into a SCIF), even if you do something crazy to the camera, they still might not let you bring it in — it wouldn't be hard to make a camera that looked like it was disabled, but could actually be cleverly reactivated. Thus you have to have a model that doesn't have a camera in it at all, not one where it's been disabled by you somehow. (Of course, some places are cool with black electrical tape, so it all depends on how people interpret the rules, I guess.) I'm pretty sure I saw a FAQ once about SCIF access and one of the questions was about devices with integrated cameras where the cameras had been disabled, and the answer was still "no." So if that's the underlying reason, I'd ask your security officer before you permanently nerf your camera.
posted by Kadin2048 at 7:35 PM on January 22, 2009


Buy some epoxy, mix it up, and just pour it over the lens (not the glass lens, the CCD). When it hardens it wont be as clear and will probably make picture taking impossible.

Even then, I believe you cant still take that thing into a courthouse. Most manufacturers have a special version of their phones just for this reason. Perhaps you can trade yours in for one of those. Call Verizon and ask.
posted by damn dirty ape at 7:37 PM on January 22, 2009


you can disable it but you will still be asked to surrender it going into a courthouse or any other secure area where cameras are prohibited.
posted by micawber at 7:51 PM on January 22, 2009


Couldn't you get a new faceplate for your phone, and then fashion some kind of cover into the faceplate that covers the lens? If you do it well or do something artistic, you might be able to cover the lens in such a way that nobody would know it was there and then could remove the faceplate and put another one on there at some point in the future.

I've heard that some manufacturers make special faceplates and battery covers that cover up lenses just for this purpose, but I wasn't able to find one for your phone with a quick google search... but it might exist, so consider trying to find one!
posted by lockle at 8:22 PM on January 22, 2009


I haven't found an answer for your phone, but there is a company that specializes in removing the iPhone's camera for $100: iResQ.
posted by zippy at 8:25 PM on January 22, 2009


Etching solution on the lens?
posted by pseudostrabismus at 11:11 PM on January 22, 2009


mobile phone repair guy in one of the ethnic neighbourhoods in your city could do it for you
posted by infini at 11:43 PM on January 22, 2009


Echoing Kadin2048 here. Any place that disallows cameras often also doesn't permit phones. More to the point, I'm not clear why you must have the phone where you can't have the camera. Leave the phone in the car. If that's impractical, talk to Verizon about getting a phone without a camera.
posted by Emperor SnooKloze at 3:55 AM on January 23, 2009


In my experience most facilities that disallow camera phones will still not let you bring in a phone with a manually disabled camera unless it's totally clear that the camera will not work.

and

Any place that disallows cameras often also doesn't permit phones. More to the point, I'm not clear why you must have the phone where you can't have the camera.

My brother in law was a contractor (engineer) for NASA. He was not permitted a camera in any way (espionage, industrial and state-sponsored), but was required to have a cell phone. He really wanted a smart phone with internet, but couldn't find any without cameras.

He went so far as to ask the security people, "If I came in here with the phone, and a screwdriver, stuck it through the lens, and literally destroyed the camera in front of you, would that be okay?"

They said, "Absolutely not. No way."

So, assuming that the OP has determined that a disabled camera really is acceptable, then I'd just pop off or unscrew the lens. Then take something sharp and unpleasant to the CCD itself. Remove all layers of the lens assembly except for the out protective one, and glue that back into place.

The problem is, without the huge gaping hole, there's going to be almost no way to prove that the thing is actually disabled.
posted by Netzapper at 4:49 AM on January 23, 2009


Thanks for the responses so far. To clarify, this is not a government facility or high-tech corporate lab that I'm talking about, it's a residential place (where I will be living). I'd rather not go into more details than that. In order to determine whether the camera has been disabled the security people will simply visually inspect the phone and (probably) try and take a picture using the phone. Nothing more intricate than that. So if the camera is not working and it does not appear to have been simply "blacked out" with nail polish or the like, I will be OK. Thanks again.
posted by btkuhn at 6:18 AM on January 23, 2009


Get some JB Weld and fill in the hole where the lens is.
posted by yohko at 2:36 PM on January 23, 2009


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