POLL: Should phones have front-facing cameras?

Should phones have front-facing cameras?

  • Yes
  • No
  • Maybe/Other (Comment with Thoughts)

0 voters

Well, if there’s a HW kill switch I at least feel better about the camera lens staring back at me all the time…


Is the main thrust of the question:

Should the Librem 5 have a front-facing camera?


Should phones in general have a front-facing camera?


i’ve taken it to be in respect to phones in general since the L5 IS a phone (but also more)


The idea of Purism is to provide convenient security and software freedom.
Most people who buy a smartphone want to be able to take selfie photos and to be able to make video calls.

If you don’t, then you can easily put tape over the selfie camera, disable the front camera with a command in ~/.bashrc, or simply open the device and unplug the front camera module.


… and, importantly, being an open source phone, you can have higher confidence that disabling the camera in software actually does something.

(You can’t be confident about the camera hardware - that is still a blackbox - and that’s why you have the HKS to use if you want that level of confidence - but with the camera not killed even if the camera hardware is compromised, the camera can’t do much with illicitly captured images without the cooperation of the host.

I suppose the truly paranoid could imagine that illicitly captured images are stegod out via legitimately captured images and somehow find their way off the phone for subsequent retrieval of the illicitly captured images.)

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Lots of good questions and points.

I was thinking of this more as in general for all phones, in the context of the L5 and potential future generations of the L5, and in the context of privacy and security.

I personally have not used the font-facing camera on my phone a single time and plan on covering the one on my L5 (if I don’t ever use it, why not?), but was wondering what the community thinks.

given the modular nature of the L5 . In Fir V.2 will I be able to remove the front camera ?

@Some_dude36 it appears you already CAN.

i don’t have the L5 yet though so i can’t confirm this yet. to me it seems unreasonable to think you can NOT do this ALREADY with the L5-v1-Evergreen.

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In general for all phones it’s a no-brainer. Yes, a phone should have a front-facing camera. Just because you don’t want it and you will never use it should not restrict someone else. It is lot easier for you to cover over your front-facing camera (and/or disable it in software) then it is for another customer to retrofit a front-facing camera.

I am an occasional user of the front-facing camera. (I am a fairly frequent user of the rear-facing camera.) I would rather the front-facing camera is there but if Purism had said at some point that for some technical reason there wasn’t going to be a front-facing camera, it would not be a deal breaker for me, I could live without it.

Whether video calls actually work at Day 1 remains to be seen. :wink:
But the hardware has to be there at Day 1 - and the software can follow along behind.

You would need to argue why the front-facing camera is a risk but the rear-facing camera is not a risk.

Probably you can argue that two cameras is more of a risk than one, but the big step up in risk comes with the first camera. If the first camera goes rogue (and you are not using the camera HKS) then it can already gather immense amounts of information about where you are, whom you are with, and what you are doing.


I understand where you are coming from, this poll was more out of my curiosity as to the usage and requirements of this community (I wouldn’t expect Purism to ship a phone without a front-facing camera, although maybe an option or a replacement chassis without a front-facing hole might be nice, given the phone’s molecularity it wouldn’t be too hard to swap out), but my argument is that one camera is in your face while the over is not. As such, something looking at your face at all times being hijacked is more of a privacy risk than something looking at your feet.

I remember a time when phone cameras had built in sliding lens protectors and mecanical shutters that you could see stayed closed when not in use.


That would be a nice middle-ground, but I would imagine that it takes up a lot of space. Even though they are the same thing and I know they are the same thing, something about a barrier between myself and the camera feels like a more concrete solution than a switch, even after validation that the hardware switch does work (and further checking of tampering).

When you get your phone, you will be able to put that to the test. With the front-facing camera covered over and with the cameras not killed … what exactly is ‘in frame’ of the rear-facing camera as you go about your day, including picking it up, putting it down, putting it in clothing / bag, taking it out?

But the camera will have to be working adequately first.

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So, the cameras are actually very secure for now :wink:


In every phone that I have taken apart, it was possible to disconnect the camera modules (either by unplugging their connectors or by cutting the connector wires which were soldered to the PCB).

In Dogwood the camera modules are not soldered to the PCB and it looks like they have connectors that you can unplug. See: https://puri.sm/posts/librem-5-dogwood-update/

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I refuse to answer on the grounds that the characterization “front”/“back” is confusing. If my point-and-shoot has a screen on one side, and a lens on the other, then is it front-or back-facing camera?


In general…Front = the camera on the same side of the phone as the screen; Back = the other one

This is how reviewers and users have labeled phone cameras, and how Purism even labels the cameras in their documentation and product pages (when listing the Megapixels of each camera).

On your point-and-shoot, I would consider it a rear camera since it is on the opposite side of the display, but that definition also makes things tricky with folding phones with screens on both sides. At the same time, it doesn’t have more than one camera, so is there a need to categorize it at all? It could be just as easily referred to as the “Camera” or “Sensor”, and it is easy to know what you are talking about because there is only one, no descriptive adjective required. The only reason we say “rear” or “front” is because there are two, if phones only had one camera then there would be no need. I don’t refer to my laptop’s webcam as the “front-facing webcam”, because my laptop doesn’t have a rear-facing webcam for it to be confused with. I just call it my “webcam”.

As with many things, there is no great one-size-fits-all definition that can be used to characterize front and rear cameras, it is really up to phone makers, users, and reviewers to determine what to call what cameras, but it is possible to generalize and in most cases, on most phones with 2 cameras, the one on the side with the screen is the front and the one on the back is the rear. This is what I mean when asking the question.

Edit: An easier to understand (although not much more clear) definition might be to call the “front” camera the one you use for selfies/video calls, with the rear one being the opposite of that, although this introduces the same problems with folding phones and confusing cameras, and I’m sure there are some people who take selfies with the rear camera.


My opposition stems rather from the definition of “front” and “back” switching based on… how many lenses we have I guess?

Which is the “front” on my point-and-shoot camera? I always thought it was the side facing the world, like binoculars face the world, with their back to the user, like a gun or a lawnmower.

Now what if we have a camera with an additional “selfie” lens? Does it now switch front-to-back? That would be surprising: the front is still facing the world, amirite?

Okay, so now make the display bigger, and put a modem inside. It’s a phone now! Did it make it switch front-to-back? Ehhhh not according to me. The operator side is still “back”.

If you think “front” is operator side, then what happens if we remove the selfie camera from our phone? I don’t think that warrants a flip either.

Although it makes me want to flip (tables) to see the press had settled on a back-to-front naming scheme ;_;. History will show who was right!

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Say it didn’t have any cameras, one side is a bezel and the other is a screen. Is the side with the screen the back of the phone. Are you looking at the back of your laptop? Is the horn on the back of the steering wheel or the front? I think you will eventually conform after some time. Give yourself time :slight_smile: