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Android camera

Today, you never know what can be taking a picture of you. Computer, mannequins, and security cameras all have the capability to stealthily record us. Now you can add your friend’s phone to the list. That is, if you’re trying to get into it.

Lookout Mobile‘s latest Android mobile security feature takes a picture of anyone who inputs a phone’s password incorrectly three times or more. It’s intent is to help people with stolen phones grab a shot of the thief, perhaps to help police identify and locate the person (and hopefully retrieve the phone). It works silently. The app uses the front-facing camera to snap a picture of the snoop and email it to you.

“We want to help people protect the privacy of their most personal device, and we designed Lock Cam specifically to address unauthorized parties trying to access your phone,” said Lookout lead project manager Jonathan Stull in an email to VentureBeat. “Important to note: You can’t trigger Lock Cam remotely – someone has to be trying to enter your locked device to activate Lock Cam.”

Regardless, willingly installing software that silently takes a picture of anyone standing in front of the phone is concerning. If someone were to access Lookout’s systems, they could theoretically figure out a way to trigger the camera response. However, Chris Morales, a mobile security analyst with 451 Research, isn’t as worried:

“It’s only a concern if the Lookout software itself is compromised,” said Morales in an e-mail to VentureBeat. “It is at risk no more than any other security system. Malware for Android already exists that can take advantage of physical sensors on a device, like the camera.”

Of course, the less pressing issue is that people enter their passwords incorrectly all the time, especially if they’re in a hurry. While it might be uncomfortable knowing your picture is being taken every time, it’s not a huge inconvenience to get the email. If anything, you can see what you looked like that day.

With this update the company also released a new premium feature that allows you to leave a 300-character long message on your phone’s lock screen should you lose your phone. This way a do-gooder could see the message, which might include a phone number to call or an address, and return the phone to its rightful owner.

This feature is only avalable for Lookout’s Premium accounts, which you can get for $2.99 a month.

Android camera image via vegetando/Flickr

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