Qihoo 360 shuts down live-streaming video platform over privacy concerns at schools

Beijing-based internet security company admits failure to control online feeds of video that might have compromised privacy

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 20 December, 2017, 3:32pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 20 December, 2017, 10:54pm

Internet security company Qihoo 360 Technology has shut down its controversial live-streaming video platform following public concerns over privacy at schools.

Earlier this year, schools in China’s Henan province reportedly broadcast footage of classrooms and dormitories so that the children there can be monitored by their parents who work in other cities and provinces.

The local media reports raised concerns over whether it is safe to broadcast such content on young students as anyone can access the live-streaming platform Shuidi Zhibo, which is owned by Qihoo 360.

The Beijing-based company has hundreds of streaming channels from schools across China, including kindergartens.

China’s booming live streaming industry may have reached its peak

Apart from its anti-virus software, Qihoo 360 sells web cameras that are used as surveillance tools at home and in shops. It started including a live-streaming feature in these cameras in 2015.

In response to the reports, Qihoo 360 said only teachers and parents were able to access those content with a password. It also offered guidelines on privacy to users of its web cameras and live-streaming platform.

On Wednesday, Qihoo 360 said it has pulled down all videos and permanently ceased operations at Shuidi Zhibo.

In a statement that was posted on the now-closed Shuidi Zhibo, Qihoo 360 said it could not control what was shown on the live-streaming platform, including video that might compromise privacy, despite providing more information about privacy to web camera users and efforts to monitor content on the site.

Privacy fears as surveillance footage broadcast on Chinese website

“We have decided to remove the live-streaming feature of the 360 smart camera. It will now only offer security monitoring,” the company said in a statement.

China’s live-streaming video industry has seen explosive growth over the past two years, with the number of platforms increasing to more than 100, according to various industry estimates.

Shanghai-based iResearch forecast the industry’s revenue this year to reach 43.2 billion yuan (US$6.5 billion), more than double the 20.8 billion yuan generated last year.

China’s crackdown on internet live-streaming to shake up the industry

The country’s booming live-streaming market, however, has been blemished by scandals in recent months, which has prompted more stringent regulatory supervision.

Meipai, a popular short video application operated by Hong Kong-listed photo-editing app provider Meitu, banned minors from using its live-streaming service after a scandal broke involving primary schoolchildren broadcasting nudity online.

China’s Ministry of Culture and the State Administration of Radio Film and Television introduced this year new rules covering the behaviour of video live-streamers as well as restrictions on certain content.