Oka's hope is that Home Depot and the like will eventually sell the stuff by the board-foot. Since blocking signals this way doesn't require active broadcasting on a commercially leased frequency, it seems to be legal, though the cellular industry's trade association, the Cellular Telecommunications and Internet Association, doesn't think any jamming should occur, whether active or passive.
But the CTIA is unlikely to see a ban on passive jamming any time soon. The problem is that cell phones aren't just for talking anymore. And as the industry continues to provide futuristic gadgets with dizzying capabilities, it will be tougher to make a case against all forms of interference. The prevalence of camera phones, to cite just one example, poses a new problem for industrial security experts eager to keep espionage-minded shutterbugs in the dark. One company, Iceberg Systems, is beta-testing a new technology that will remotely turn off the cameras in cell phones.
While the legality of this technology is unclear, odds are that the demand for such products will surge in the near future, as analysts predict that within five years there could be up to 1 billion camera phones in circulation worldwide. We may find ourselves in a "bottom up" surveillance society, where anyone can record anything, and send sound and image out to the Internet for those who want to watch and listen in. This is happening already: On Nov. 18 a club-goer snapped a picture of an allegedly vomit- and urine-soaked toy gorilla strapped to the grille of a police car parked in front of a popular hip-hop club in Portland, Ore. The picture triggered a minor scandal, forcing the Portland police department to explain why the incident wasn't racist.
In this climate, where anything can be photographed or surreptitiously recorded, the desire for privacy, and "security bubbles" of our own, will likely mean that the once-esoteric world of cell-phone jamming will become increasingly mainstream. And why not? After all, if it's good enough for the president, isn't it good enough for the rest of us?