My latest Guardian column, "Stop worrying, Hollywood - nobody is stealing your films with mobiles," looks into the curious practice of forcing attendees at preview screenings to surrender their phones while they see the movie. The industry admits that no one has ever camcordered a movie with a phone, and further, they admit that 100 percent of pre-release leaks come from insiders, not camcordering. And then there's the small matter of all the data on those hundreds of VIPs' phones that are left in care while they spend a couple hours watching giant robots throw buildings at each other.
If I wanted to stop movies from being pirated, I'd focus my effort on the places where they leak. In the case of the Oscars, that's the insider awards voters who leak every movie they're sent within six days, not the film critics - who have never, ever leaked a movie by recording it at a preview.
Stop worrying, Hollywood - nobody is stealing your films with mobiles
Likewise, if I wanted to secure hundreds of mobile phones, my first resort would be to leave them where they are, in cinemagoers' pockets, which is surely the safest place for them to be. Failing that, I'd have a top-notch security system, with tamper-evident, shielded, opaque bags for storing phones, a system of multiple watchers who kept an eye on each other as well as the phones, and special background checks into anyone allowed anywhere in the vicinity of the handsets.
Oh, and I'd make sure I was carrying special insurance that specifically covered losses due to data breaches from phones in my care.
What does the film industry do to safeguard your phone when you see a preview? It's very hard to say. No one could really tell me what the details were.
If you think that your phone may have been hacked so that your adversaries can watch you through the cameras and listen through the mics, one way to solve the problem is to remove the cameras and microphones, and only use the phone with a headset that you unplug when it’s not in use.
Lured by the internet’s pervasive insistence that it represents a superior, more comfortable typing experience, I recently went back to an old-timey mechanical keyboard. This was a mistake. I am now a hamfisted ASCII jazz disaster.
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