Businesses shouldn't be as worried as they are about camera phones in the workplace, claims Gartner.

According to the research company, many enterprises reckon the latest in questionable technology can compromise their security and employees' privacy, and are trying to ban camera phones from their facilities.

But while at the same time informing us of this growing trend, Gartner is keen to point out that an outright ban of camera phones is short-sighted and hard to enforce. By 2006, more than 80 percent of mobile phones shipped in the US and Western Europe will have cameras apparently. As camera phones account for a larger portion of the overall mobile phone market, companies will need to implement security programs that can be realistically managed, Gartner reveals.

"Most organisations simply do not have the staff or money to mount effective inspections," says Ken Dulaney, research vice-president at Gartner. "Instead, businesses should designate secure zones where restrictions on these devices are tight and can be enforced. For other workplace areas, staff should be given guidelines about what is acceptable."

"Usage guidelines will be far more effective than outright bans, because it is not just the phones' cameras that could pose a security risk," says Carolina Milanesi, analyst for Gartner. "For example, many phones can also record voices. Therefore, it is hard to decide where to draw a firm line about what can and cannot be used at work."

Oddly, neither of them mention the fact that the cameras put on phones are of such poor quality that security is unlikely to be an issue even if someone does have malicious intent. Or that standalone digital cameras that would provide a decent resolution are now so tiny that they would be far more effective than a mobile phone.

But it's not just camera phones that don't pose a danger. There are a flood of high-tech consumer devices, Gartner says, that could (not) pose a security risk.

"There are Universal Serial Bus 'key ring' drives, some of which will soon feature built-in cameras that can quickly connect to almost any recent PC and take large amounts of information off the premises. There is also a new wave of DVD burners to contend with," Dulaney says. "Any company policy directed at camera phones should be widened to address the transfer of information from enterprise environments to consumer devices in general." Above all, businesses must foster an internal culture that discourages the abuse of any technologies, Gartner advises.

We can all sleep safer in our beds knowing that Gartner is spotting security risks that don't exist.