Because of the ease with which users are able to share live video streams with Facebook Live or Periscope, mobile streaming video technology (MSVT) has great potential to catalyse new privacy laws and policies, a study says. Current US laws protecting individual rights are insufficient to protect privacy when it comes to mobile streaming video technology and that the First Amendment likely protects livestreaming activities of users, the study found.
But some entities will seek to carve out special exemptions for themselves, said Jeremy Littau, Assistant Professor of Journalism at Lehigh University in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, US. “Our work already mentions situations where municipalities have tried to pass laws stopping citizens from recording police activities in public. It’s completely unconstitutional, but that won’t stop people from trying,” he explained.
In July, the fatal police shootings of Philando Castile – a Black man in Minnesota – went viral on social media. The aftermath of the Castile shooting was first shared via Facebook Live, which is a type of mobile streaming video technology (MSVT) that allows users to stream live video to followers, similar to Periscope and Meerkat.
The real-time video of Castile’s death reached over five million people within a week of its posting. In this study, the researchers examined the legal rights of people to record and live stream and any potential right to be free from being recorded and streamed in public places. “The Castile shooting is important not only for its content, but also because a Facebook user showed the public a new tool that it might not otherwise have known about or thought to use in a situation like this,” Littau said.
“What happened in Minnesota is one of those incidents that serve as a harbinger for what is to come,” he added.
Services like Facebook Live break down the previous lag between information collection and information distribution, making potential privacy violations instantaneous and unavoidable, according to the research, which was published in the journal Journalism and Mass Communication Quarterly.
The researchers advocate that privacy challenges be addressed directly between by mobile streaming companies and their users via contracts. “Ultimately consumers of tools like Periscope and Facebook Live will shape the way they are used,” Daxton Stewart, Associate Professor at Texas Christian University.