With live streaming or broadcasts via social media getting more popular there are concerns about the growing threat to people’s privacy, as few may be able to avoid the camera in the age of “everyone is a broadcaster”.

The number of live webcast users reached 397 million, as of December 2018. Thanks to the rise of smartphones, everyone can snap, film and broadcast on social media platforms. So, ordinary people could unintentionally rise to fame overnight because a picture or a video has gone viral, the People’s Daily Overseas Edition reported, recapped by the Paper.cn.

According to a reader’s letter published on May 5 in the Beijing Evening News, the latest saga happened on Labor Day or May 1, when a complainant surnamed Zhang was trying to stop a waiter who was filming – live streaming – diners at a restaurant on Zaoyuan Road in Xi’an province.

During the confrontation, Zhang insisted that the waiter’s filming was an infringement of diners’ privacy as they were enjoying personal time with families and friends and had not consented to be filmed for the eatery’s marketing purposes. However, the waiter tried to silence him by pointing the camera at the grumpy diner and saying that his ‘stunt’ was being live streamed on the internet.

Previous media reports on the mainland found that members of the public could have been ‘captured’ on screen at public places such as restaurants and gyms where cameras have been installed for reasons of security.

Many live broadcast platforms provide 24-hour webcam coverage of streetscapes, tourist attractions and other ‘private’ locations.

With technological advances, the boundaries between public space and private have got blurred, especially when live broadcasting happens in public areas. And what could be worse is the monetary incentive of exposing and revealing others through live videos in a bid to attracting online traffic, as some social media “influencers” reportedly do.

However, it should be noted that it is illegal to live-stream footage without obtaining informed consent for recordings and images of other people. Under the provisions of China’s Cyber ​​Security Law, providers of online products or services who collect user information must clearly indicate and obtain consent from the user before it is obtained.

Article 100 of the General Rules of the Civil Law of the People’s Republic of China also states that citizens have the right to portraits and may not use citizens’ portraits for the purpose of making profit without their consent.

The report ended by appealing to those in the commercial sector not to chase internet traffic to boosting their businesses at the expense of other people’s rights.

People operating social media broadcasting platforms who conduct live streaming should strengthen their inspection of content and any material from illegal filming should be banned and taken off the shelf immediately.

Lastly, people’s awareness of the law has to be raised, and they should be encouraged to speak up, to stop infringements or file for compensation through a consumer watchdog or the authorities, the People’s Daily Overseas Edition said.