(Updated to include response from Vivo.)

The selfie camera on Vivo's Nex flagship is an extremely clever solution to the problem facing smartphone makers right now: If you make the screen as big as possible, where does the selfie camera go? Vivo's idea is simply to make it pop out of the top of the device. It makes the screen as big as possible, and let's be honest... it's kinda cool to see the camera emerge automatically when it's needed.

The pop-up selfie camera we saw on vivo’s concept phone at this year’s World Mobile Congress. (Picture: Abacus)

Except some users in China have discovered that it's also popping up when it's not needed, and that's creeping people out.

One Weibo user posted a video showing a Vivo Nex launching its hidden selfie camera when using the messaging app Telegram. The user wasn't taking a selfie -- all they did was open a chat window and the camera emerged from the top, before shrinking back down.

"Why hello there." (Picture: @Y-CHIA on Weibo)

Some people saw the same thing happening when using Tencent’s QQ Browser. When clicking on a travel booking information page on Ctrip, the selfie camera popped up briefly for half a second, before the user was taken to the Ctrip app.

Breaking news: Vivo introduces first phone able to play peekaboo with users. (Picture: @极客村长 on Weibo)

In this case, Tencent says that while QQ Browser prompts the camera to emerge, it doesn't actually record anything. The company explained that it's all to do with Android's camera APIs. The browser uses the camera for certain features like QR code scanning. Tencent says there are two APIs for camera access on Android -- and the one it uses activates the camera briefly to get its information.

A Vivo spokesperson said that Vivo has made its technical team aware of the issue and will follow up with us. 

Netizens are baffled and a little freaked out by the camera popping out. But far from being an invasion of privacy, some are actually arguing that it's the opposite -- it's helping users understand just when their smartphone cameras are being activated and why. 

UPDATE (July 2, 2018): Vivo sent us a statement saying they've "always implemented strict management of application rights," adding that non-necessary permissions are switched off by default.