Uber and Lyft last weekend suspended a driver who secretly live-streamed hundreds of passengers on the video platform Twitch, according to a report. In Missouri, where the rides took place, only one party needs to give permission to record, which means the taping was legal. But the recordings raise ethical questions about the driver’s behavior.
Nearly all of the driver’s 700 rides in the St. Louis area were recorded online, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Several passengers contacted by the newspaper said they did not know their rides had been live-streamed, the Post-Dispatch reported, and they said they would not have given the driver permission to record them if they had known.
The recordings and suspension highlight pressing questions about consumer privacy and consent. Missouri is among the states that require only one party to consent to recordings. Only 11 states mandate that everyone involved in a recording give their consent for it to be lawful, including California, Florida and Illinois.
Uber said in a statement to The Washington Post Monday, “The troubling behavior in the videos is not in line with our Community Guidelines. We have ended our partnership with this driver."
Uber allows drivers to use video cameras to record passengers for safety purposes. According to the company’s help page, drivers are urged to check local regulations to determine if they need to obtain consent from riders to record them.
Lyft said in a statement to The Washington Post that “the safety and comfort of the Lyft community is our top priority, and we have deactivated this driver.” Lyft also tells drivers to refer to local regulations for using cameras while driving passengers. The company notes on its help page that some cities and states may require drivers to disclose the presence of recording devices, while others may bar recording devices.
The driver, 32-year-old Jason Gargac, streamed his videos on Twitch under the username “JustSmurf,” according to the Post-Dispatch, but his channel no longer contains videos. “Sorry. Unless you’ve got a time machine, that content is unavailable,” Twitch tells users on his page. (Twitch is owned by Amazon.com, whose chief executive, Jeffrey P. Bezos, owns The Washington Post.)
Gargac isn’t the first Uber driver to create online videos featuring his ride-hailing passengers. But the nature of his recordings and the discussions around them that took place on Twitch have drawn criticism.
Bryant Greening, a lawyer at LegalRideshare, a Chicago-based law firm that represents ride-hailing drivers and customers, said he encourages drivers to use dashboard cameras for security reasons. Recordings can document evidence for accident and insurance claims. But the Missouri live streams, he said, represent a breach of trust.
“It’s a totally different story to have a ride-share driver record passengers' conversations and passenger actions for the purpose of boosting their brand, or entertaining followers, or embarrassing individuals who get in the car.”