Science

Live from the delivery room: Places where streaming your life is off-limits

When medical staff at California's Mercy San Juan Medical Center were delivering a baby boy on Monday, they were focused on doing their job. They had no idea the world was watching them assist a birth on live video, contractions and all. Now that almost anyone with a phone can make a live broadcast, what is appropriate for these streams?

From hospitals to classrooms, where is it appropriate to broadcast to the world?

A California dad live streamed the birth of his baby boy on Facebook for the world to see on Monday. The mom wasn't aware of it at the time, but said later, 'It didn't show too much, so I'm OK.' (Fakamalo Kihe Eiki/Facebook)

When medical staff at California's Mercy San Juan Medical Center were delivering a baby boy on Monday, they were focused on doing their job. They had no idea the world was watching them assist a birth on live video, contractions and all.

Any type of video recording is forbidden in the delivery room at the Sacramento-area medical centre, but that didn't stop the baby's father from streaming it via Facebook Live. Neither the baby's mom nor the hospital staff knew he was doing it at the time.

The video — now watched by more than 200,000 people — caught the hospital off guard. Anissa Routon, a spokeswoman for the hospital, hadn't heard about the live stream until CBC News asked her about it on Monday evening.

Dignity Health, the corporation that runs the medical centre, has since put out a statement reminding patients of the rules. "Filming medical procedures — including the birth of a child — and distributing that video to the public is against our patient safety and privacy policies," it reads.

"We can't always control what it is that our patients or our visitors do or attempt to do," Routon said in a later phone call.

But now that almost anyone with a phone can produce a live broadcast on the internet, what is appropriate for these streams?

'First thoughts' last online

It's a question Jason Wigmore thinks about when he turns his camera on his Grade 4 class and starts streaming.

Wigmore, a teacher at Burnt Elm Public School in Brampton, Ont., has used live streaming apps and video chat services like Periscope, Google Hangouts and Skype in the classroom.

The class has live streamed a field trip to a conservation area and has done video calls with guest speakers and different classrooms around North America.

The Grade 4 students recently had a Skype call with a class in Hawaii.

"It breaks down the four walls of the classroom. I can allow my students to go somewhere or talk to somebody somewhere in the world that they would never get a chance to actually talk to or experience."

But Wigmore acknowledges that the technology does have its drawbacks.

"We're … automatically putting students' first thoughts and reflections up for the world to see … you want to make sure that kids know that they can try stuff and they can fail and that's part of learning," he says. "I want to make sure kids still feel safe to kind of share in that way."

Streams, for transparency's sake?

Some places don't allow the streams at all. In the past, performers like the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Bjork and Prince put bans on live streams, photos and videos at the venues they played.

Many casinos and slot facilities also have bans in place. Tony Bitonti, a spokesman for Ontario's lottery and gaming corporation, says live streams, photos and videos of any kind are not allowed on the gaming floor. He cites the province's privacy laws.

"It's almost like trying to maintain anti-paparazzo policies in the casinos." Bitonti says casino and slot security closely monitor the facilities to make sure that no one is breaking the rules.

But others argue live streaming helps with transparency.

That's the premise behind Peekaboo Child Care, a chain of Ontario nurseries equipped with cameras so parents can watch their kids throughout the day online.

Peekaboo claims it was the first daycare centre in Canada to offer this service.

Janan DiNola, Peekaboo's parent relations manager, says parents can watch their children online from multiple camera angles.

"Let's be honest, I think nowadays, people feel more confident in seeing than just being told," she told CBC News.

"It gives us the transparency too, that, 'You know what, we want you to see what is being done.'"

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Haydn Watters is a roving reporter for Ontario, primarily serving the province's local radio shows. He has worked for CBC News and CBC Radio in Halifax, Yellowknife, Ottawa and Toronto, with stints at the politics bureau and the entertainment unit. He also ran an experimental one-person pop-up bureau for the CBC in Barrie, Ont.

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