Surveillance apps must increase security

By Liu Lulu Source:Global Times Published: 2017/12/17 20:58:39

Illustration: Liu Rui/GT

Qihoo 360 has recently found itself at the center of a public relations crisis after its online platform, Waterdrop Livestream, was revealed to have been airing feeds from its surveillance cameras installed in business venues without notifying the people being captured. Although Qihoo 360 later explained that the live broadcast function of the equipment is by default disabled and the cameras given out to kindergartens and restaurants are intended for the security of children and public health, the revelations have triggered a public panic about privacy in the Internet era.

The majority of the public cannot accept their activities in gyms, Internet cafes and other public places being broadcast online without being informed. Yet it's technologically impossible for shop owners to acquire authorization from everyone being surveilled, given the large flow of customers, and this has put public privacy in peril.

Worse still, being exposed to ubiquitous surveillance infers huge security risks. With a surging number of livestream apps and viewers in recent years, a tremendous amount of ordinary people's day-to-day lives, including dining, exercising and shopping, are being publicized online. The data may then be taken advantage of by would-be criminals. The camera, which Qihoo 360 originally designed to ensure security, would thus become a tool for evildoers to snoop on their prey.

Soaring legal costs are a contributor to the intensifying infringement on public privacy. The law in China has high requirements for evidence from plaintiffs to prove their case, and lacks concrete measures to calculate losses resulting from any infringement. As a result, only a few victims would pursue the legal route if they are livestreamed but are unaware of it at the time. In contrast, it costs nearly nothing for vendors to live broadcast their customers, which sometimes may be a stunt for them to accrue more profits. A vicious circle is thus formed.

Actions must be taken to perfect the laws and regulations in this area. Although China's General Principles of the Civil Law and the Tort Law have provisions concerning the rights to privacy, they are not concrete enough. More efforts should be put into enhancing the legislation so that people who invade others' privacy can be brought to justice.

Moreover, a boundary needs to be drawn between privacy and Qihoo 360's goodwill to protect children. Supervision of kindergartens is necessary, but the reality is that footage of young children changing clothes was broadcast online. The livestream apps should strengthen control in this regard, for instance, making the camera package exclusive to parents. The authorities and the public should join hands to prevent these surveillance cameras from being manipulated by evildoers.

The author is a reporter with the Global Times.

Posted in: VIEWPOINT

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