26 October 2016 (inset) broadcasts live videos from webcams and security cameras worldwide. Photo: Internet (inset) broadcasts live videos from webcams and security cameras worldwide. Photo: Internet

Webcam images uploaded to internet raise privacy concerns

A growing number of Hong Kong netizens have expressed alarm over an overseas-based website that uploads live videos taken by webcams worldwide, saying it raises privacy concerns and could encourage voyeurism.

The videos on the website are classified according to the country or city where the webcam images are coming from – including Hong Kong – and according to subject matter such as “entertainment”, “interesting” and “guess”.

The places monitored by the webcams include beaches, swimming pools, residential homes, stores, offices and restaurants.

The website, called, “the world’s biggest online cameras directory”, says it does not hack into webcams.

It says it can collect the images because the webcams are not protected by passwords, adding that the webcam owners can always ask Insecam to delete the images.

Images from at least 42 webcams in Hong Kong are being uploaded on the website, investigation by reporters revealed.

Most of them are from offices. The videos also show patients at a medical clinic, children doing homework or sleeping, homeowners and maids inside homes, and other scenes that are typically monitored by security cameras.

Civic Party legislator Kwok Ka-ki, a medical doctor, was quoted by as saying that the clinic whose webcam is monitored by should seek police assistance because it could be a case of cyber crime.

But a spokesman for the Office of the Privacy Commissioner for Personal Data said Hong Kong’s privacy law is not applicable to overseas websites, adding that they will only fall under local legal jurisdiction if they collect, hold or process data in Hong Kong.

The privacy watchdog called on webcam users to set passwords that are difficult to break in order to protect their privacy.

Francis Fong, honorary chairman of the Hong Kong Information Technology Federation, said images uploaded by a webcam through the internet to a server can be easily intercepted by someone using web tools if it is not protected by a password.

Users should change a webcam’s pre-set password before operating it to prevent unauthorized people from gaining access into the videos.

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