I travel a lot, and one of the places I visit frequently is India. As a result, I usually carry SIM cards from the places I spend the most time in. Whenever I insert an Indian SIM card into my phone, the phone camera starts playing a shutter sound whenever I take a picture. This takes place on all apps on my phone that use the camera, from the default camera app to Instagram and Snapchat. This takes place in all phone modes and volume settings, including in airplane mode.

When a US or UK SIM card is inserted, the camera is silent and does not make the same noise when a photo is taken. I have noticed that this takes place with SIM cards of all operators in India, and this seems to have been the case for at least the last 2 years. I believe this is related to some legal requirement in India. The only thing I've found about this is a similar thing happening in Japan, as per this TripAdvisor forum thread.

Does anyone know why inserting an Indian SIM card into a phone activates an impossible to disable camera shutter sound?

  • 17
    This is a legal requirement in some countries. The same thing happens in Japan and from the answers, also in Korea. – Burhan Khalid Mar 16 at 10:50
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    Plenty of questions about this on Android Enthusiasts, most of these mention the legal requirements. – Jan Doggen Mar 16 at 12:48
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    Not an answer to the "why", but if you root your phone, the sound is easily fixed by finding and removing the .ogg file. I used to do this on older Android versions that lacked an option to turn off the shutter sound. – R.. Mar 16 at 15:15
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    @R.. The question then becomes, if you do that in a country where it's legally mandated and law enforcement finds out how much trouble are you going to end up in. – Dan Neely Mar 16 at 15:28
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    @rackandboneman: The SIM card can't enforce it; it's not controlling the speaker or anything about the computer. It can just tell the software a flag, and it's up to the software what to do with that flag. If a particular local phone model doesn't even have a shutter sound there's no way it's going to make one just because of a flag on the SIM. – R.. Mar 16 at 19:07
up vote 19 down vote accepted

I can't find any evidence of any law in India that mandates a camera shutter sound. Indeed in this bug fix for the Oneplus 5, the shutter sound in silent mode in India was fixed:

https://forums.oneplus.net/threads/oxygenos-4-5-7-ota-for-oneplus-5.587514/

Bug Fixes:

  • Fixed occasional sound leaks in the speakers when using earphones
  • Fixed camera shutter sound bug in silent mode for Indian region
  • Fixed missing sound channels when recording videos

If your phone makes a shutter sound in silent mode in India, I would file a bug with your smartphone vendor.

Some other vendors who've fixed this bug:
https://www.asus.com/us/support/FAQ/1031837/

In India, the sound of camera’s shutter is permanently ON because of Google’s original design, even if you’ve switched off the shutter sound in camera settings. However, we will change this option so users are able to normally turn on/off camera shutter sound in the future update.

Because of local government regulations, if you purchased your phone in either Japan or South Korea, the Camera sound option is not shown on Camera settings and the shutter sound will be ON even if you use your device in other countries.

https://nokiapoweruser.com/turn-off-camera-shutter-sound-nokia-android-smartphones/

In this tutorial, we will let you know how to turn off camera shutter sound on Nokia Android smartphones Nokia 2, 3, 5, 6, 7 and 8. By default, the Nokia Android smartphones come with camera shutter sound on.

Update: This works on Nokia 6 India variant too after installing the Oreo Beta update.

While in some of the markets it is a legal requirement and manufacturers including HMD can’t provide an option to disable this shutter sound, in other markets including India it can be turned off.

https://beebom.com/googles-february-update-pixel-2-camera-sounds/

Google Pixel 2 February Update Allows Indian Users to Turn off Camera Sounds

  • 1
    Potentially. What is also interesting is that Indian law requires SIM cards to be deactivated if they're inactive for more than 3 months. And when I reached India, I did find out that my SIM card was deactivated. So the settings are probably pre loaded on the SIM. – crayarikar Mar 16 at 10:53
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    Indian Criminal Law Amendment (2013) Section 354C, and Information Technology Act 2000, Section 66E; the settings aren't loaded in the SIM, they are activated by the device when the SIM operator country code is one of those countries where privacy laws dictate that permission must be obtained before taking pictures. The actual restriction is embedded in the software of the device. – Burhan Khalid Mar 16 at 10:55
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    It doesn't - but the shutter sound is explicit intent, especially as cellphone cameras are often used for voyeurism and other possible privacy violations. In Japan, for example, the Anti Nuisance Ordinance (which covers many things, including taking pictures of people) is what is used to enforce loud shutters on camera phones. – Burhan Khalid Mar 16 at 11:55
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    @BurhanKhalid Both 354C and 66E are explictly about punishment. There's nothing to do with technological enforcement in either of those two statutes. – Berwyn Mar 16 at 12:06
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    @Beanluc forums.oneplus.net/threads/… The people who use this phone said the bug was fixed in that thread and it no longer makes a shutter sound after 4.5.7 – Berwyn Mar 16 at 21:56

This happens with Korean SIM cards too, so I suspect this is a similar case: in Korea there have been too many upskirt photos scandals, and the government imposed a shutter sound when photos are taken, so that people are aware a photo is taken, possibly by someone malicious.

I suspect the same thing happened in India.

  • Is that actually true? "Upskirt photo scandals"? I always thought it was to do with local superstition and that having your picture taken stole a part of your soul – theonlygusti Mar 17 at 10:00
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    Jesus Christ @RonJohn yes it has a problem but you cannot "rape with virtual impunity" in India, it is a serious crime. Rape is relatively rare, while low-level constant sexual harassment is routine, both are problems and you can deal with both. – Ivan McA Mar 17 at 14:51
  • For the record, I mentioned upskirt photos for Korea (and it's also true for Japan). I have no idea what the rationale would be for the shutter sound in India – never been there. There could be any number of reasons. – TheGrouch HK Mar 17 at 15:13
  • @IvanMcA: In India, you can marry a 15 year old (arranged) and rape him or her repeatedly, completely legal. – Lightness Races in Orbit Mar 17 at 17:35

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