Internet company Qihoo 360 Technology Co issued an announcement Tuesday, rebutting a widely circulated accusation over infringement of public privacy by smart cameras and live broadcast services the company operates.
According to an article on WeChat public account Feiyanfeiyu, an amateur investigation has been conducted since earlier December at restaurants and small shops in Beijing that had installed Qihoo 360's smart cameras.
All these business venues used the cameras and staged what was going on inside the shops via shuidi, an online live broadcast service provided by Qihoo 360, without the knowledge of ordinary consumers caught by the cameras.
The writer of Feiyanfeiyu located the venues of these shops from shuidi, an app that is available on mobile devices and desktops, and talked to ordinary consumers who were in the live broadcast and consequently commented on by other netizens.
Almost all those interviewed expressed their shock at being part of a show without their knowledge and some spoke angrily with vendors or owners of these shops. The latter either apologized or appeared unconcerned over the matter of ordinary people's privacy.
After Feiyanfeiyu implied that there was a privacy infringement going on via Qihoo 360's camera and shuidi live broadcasts due to the company's ambiguous way of doing business, the company issued an explanation, noting that it had no fault.
The company said the live broadcast function of its smart cameras is by default disabled, so the owners of the cameras are responsible for making the live broadcasts available.
It likewise said it had told the owners of the cameras, mostly venders, that they are responsible for informing customers that they are being observed. The company said it will cut off signals if it finds venders that are failing in their commitments to inform customers.
The company also said it has never given its cameras as free gifts, except to some kindergartens and restaurants.
In an online poll at domestic news site sina.com.cn, 88.8 percent of the netizens responding said the company failed to fulfill its commitment to duly inform and supervise.
About 11.2 percent said the company had no responsibility as the owners of the cameras were responsible for these duties.
Qihoo 360 is planning a return to the Chinese stock market via a potential .5 billion backdoor listing, according to media reports.
Qihoo 360 was listed in the U.S. from 2011 until its privatization last year by a consortium led by founder and Chief Executive Zhou Hongyi, for about .3 billion.