The invasive intruders

Awareness of the nuisance caused by cellphones is growing and service providers are leading the way in helping to curb it.

india Updated: Mar 11, 2006 03:25 IST

A man clicks a photograph of a baby on his cell phone while playing with the child. But baby is not amused. So he grabs the offending phone from daddy dearest and flings it on the floor. Moral of the story? ‘Do not take pictures without permission,’ says the tagline of the ad by a mobile service provider. Yet another ad draws attention to choosing ringtones that do not disrupt the surroundings.

Welcome to the new world of mobile manners, where privacy is paramount and respect for rules reigns. Thanks to controversies over MMS clips, the nuisance value of the cell phone at last seems to be a talking point. From mobile service providers, to clubs, auditoriums, restaurants and even cinema halls, considerate use of the intrusive invader is the buzzword everywhere.

As anyone who has been rudely interrupted in a darkened movie hall or while at dinner in a restaurant will know, cell phones come with a lot of extras except the etiquette. And you are at risk of being disturbed not just by your neighbour’s cell phone, but your own phone too.

Service providers are trying to minimise the latter, giving subscribers the option to not be disturbed by marketing calls. And various public places like clubs, the racecourse and even restaurants have barred people from using mobile phones in their premises.

The ads on mobile manners, aired by Hutch, are evidence of the fact that people are finally waking up to the need of mobile privacy.

Says a Hutch spokesperson, “With more people carrying cell phones, their nuisance value is higher now than before, which has eventually led to a greater invasion of privacy by mobile users. We realise this and using the ads as a medium have tried to convey two messages — that phones need to be treated as phones and not cameras and even though people have the right to choose a ringtone they should have consideration for those around.”

Besides the ads the company is also looking at safeguarding its customers’ privacy with a service that bars all unsolicited tele-marketing calls. Says the spokesperson, “Though there was talk of having a law against these calls, we pre-empted it and took the initiative to extend the service to our customers.” So, all Hutch subscribers need to do is send an SMS saying “DND” to 123 to stop all Hutch updates. When bothered by unwanted calls from another number, they can send an SMS to 123 saying, “STOP xxxxx” (the number of caller).

Airtel too has a “stringent privacy policy” informs a spokesperson. “Subscribers can register their request with customer care executives to not be disturbed.” Other measures are also in the offing.

Besides cellular service providers, private clubs like the Bombay Gymkhana, the Turf Club and Wellington Club also do not encourage the use of cellphones on their premises. Bombay Gymkhana does not allow use of phones in closed areas and no ringer in the open area. The Wellington Club has a board at the entrance asking people to switch off their cell phones while the Turf Club asks people to deposit their cell phones at the entrance.

Most auditoriums ask the audience to switch off their mobiles before a performance. All plays at Prithvi open with an announcement asking the audience to switch off their cell phones and a warning that defaulters would be thrown out. Hospitals do not allow cell phones. And with several restaurants not allowing cell phones on their premises, perhaps it won’t be long before the offensive gadgets are barred from Indian restaurants too.

Says grooming expert Chhaya Momaya, “People are definitely more careful of their mobile manners than ever before. Instances of phones ringing in the middle of a play or a movie have gone down considerably. I’ve included mobile etiquette as part of the curriculum for my grooming courses.” She adds, “I think it’s rude when people go out with friends but are busy talking on phones or smsing other people.”

First Published: Mar 11, 2006 03:25 IST