Selfie-taking South Koreans have one-upped the rest of the world with the rapid popularity of “selfie-sticks,” or low-tech solutions to improving self-portraits taken with our high-tech phones while in public. But now the country is getting ready to crack down on the tools, even making them illegal. For becoming public nuisances? For being used as weapons? No, it’s simply because they’re unregistered Bluetooth devices.
There are two kinds of selfie-sticks; basic models, which cost around $5, have no real technology in them and simply hold your smartphone at a distance after you’ve set the timer setting on the camera app. The other kind offer Bluetooth connectivity, are priced around $25, and allow it to be paired with the phone so that users can trigger the camera shutter via a button on the stick’s handle. It’s the later that South Korea’s Science Ministry is addressing in its new ruling, and in truth only applies to retailers selling the sticks.
Because of the Bluetooth feature, the country labels the advanced selfie-sticks as pieces of communication equipment, and therefore must be certified before getting sold to the public that they don’t cause interference. Those caught selling unregistered sticks can face a maximum of three years in prison, or a fine of $27,000.
In a report from the AFP, even the South Korean authorities admit that this new regulation is based on technicalities, as it’s easy to recognize that any wireless signals emitted by selfie-sticks wouldn’t interfere with airplanes overhead or emergency frequencies. “It’s not going to affect anything in any meaningful way, but it is nonetheless a telecommunication device subject to regulation,” said a ministry official. The announcement of the regulation was said to mainly serve as a warning to retailers, with several bigger stores already getting rid of some stock in response.