Chinese Internet company Qihoo 360 Technology Co announced on Wednesday to shut down its online live broadcast service following a widely circulated accusation over infringement of public privacy by smart cameras.
Shuidi is the name of the online live broadcast service provided by Qihoo 360.
"Shuidi will be shut down instantly due to internal business adjustments. The live broadcast function will be removed and will focus on providing reliable security monitoring for users," said a statement on its website.
The product manager of Shuidi said in the statement that the service itself is an innovative product that meets users' needs, but that some functions of the live broadcast platform are controversial and may be maliciously exploited.
"Most people use Qihoo 360 smart cameras for security monitoring. As for live broadcast users, they need to undergo complex processes to enable a live broadcast. We embed the two functions through hardware, which may easily mislead people. That's what we should reflect on," the manager said.
According to the manager, their team has tried using artificial intelligence and facial recognition technologies to protect users' privacy and security, but they found that the technology is not omnipotent. Thus, out of responsibility for users, they decided to close the Shuidi live broadcast platform.
The sales of Qihoo 360's smart cameras have surpassed 5 million units, with kindergartens across the country receiving more than 2,000 such cameras as gifts, domestic news site lanjinger.com reported.
On December 12, an article published on WeChat public account Feiyanfeiyu said that an amateur investigation has been conducted since earlier December at restaurants and small shops in Beijing that had installed Qihoo 360's smart cameras.
According to the article, all these business venues used the cameras and staged what was going on inside the shops via shuidi, 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.
Later, the company issued an explanation, saying 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.