Live Stream and Privacy

As we are moving towards people re-gathering in our churches, the question has been asked about churches live-streaming with a congregation and how do manage any privacy concerns. The following is not legal advice, but an effort to guide discussion within the leadership on how this might be handled.

Up until now, it’s been a relatively easy(ish) task to share a Sunday service online with your congregation. The pastor may have pre-recorded a message and added some songs to listen to plus some further readings listed in the details area or comments box. Some churches have gone to the effort of pre-recording an entire church service and uploaded to Youtube to be made available at the regular church time. Others have gone to directly live streaming their service on a Sunday.

In all of these examples though, there has not been a congregation in the building.

Some of these churches are now considering their options of live streaming to an online congregation while also ministering with an on site congregation. But what if those on site don’t want to have their face in a live stream crowd shot?

Here are a few thoughts on this:

  1. Don’t show the on site congregation at all. This is probably the easiest solution. If you keep the camera(s) only on the people on the stage, then you don’t have to worry about any privacy concerns from the on-site congregation. The understanding is that those people on the stage area are OK that their face may appear on the live stream from time to time.
    Personally, when at church, I usually look at just the people on the stage and the words on the screen. (I’m not one who usually looks around during prayer times to see if others have got their eyes closed. 😊 And if someone wants to have a moment with the Holy Spirit, I’m not going to watch them. ) When doing church online over the last couple of months, I like the experience to be as close as possible to the “normal” one.
  2. If you do want to show that that there are people in church, how about a wide stage shot from the back of the church – only getting the back of some peoples heads. Apart from Jono who always wears that hat, and Jess who everyone knows has just recently dyed her hair green, most people will be less identifiable.
  3. If you really must have people’s faces on the live stream, there are couple of possible ways to manage this:
    • Have a section of seating in the church clearly identified as an on camera section. And as people sit there (or some time before the director calls “ACTION !!”) they are advised that by sitting in this area their face may go on live stream in a congregation shot. Offer them the option to stay or move. Ensure that the camera operators know that they are not to put a congregation camera on any area other than this section.
    • Have a section of seating in the church clearly identified as NEVER TO BE on camera. Ensure that the camera operators do not put the camera facing to this area. Anyone sitting in this can be advised that their face won’t appear on the live stream.

With all the above, you probably need to make sure that some notices on screen or an announcement from the front (or both) happen so that people are aware of the live stream event, and that there are certain sections that will be or won’t be on camera, and allow people an opportunity to move if they feel the need.

If you have any further concerns or questions, we recommend meeting with your preferred legal team.

Photo by Joshua Hanson on Unsplash