When was the last time you took an Uber or Lyft? If you’re like many of us, hailing a car via an app is one of the best technological conveniences of the past decade. But have you ever given thought to how many people might be watching you?
The following story will give you nightmares.
Jason Gargac was a driver for both Uber and Lyft. Not only was he secretly videotaping his passengers as he drove them around St. Louis, he was also live-streaming the video on Twitch. His passengers knew nothing about it.
People came in droves to watch the channel. The comments, as you might imagine, were often degrading towards the passengers.
“The blonde is cute. The one who ordered is not,” said one commenter. “She doesn’t sit like a lady,” said another.
Most comments are too crude to publish.
Gargac did this hundreds of times, the passengers all unaware they were being filmed and broadcast across the internet.
“It’s dehumanizing,” said one victim to the St. Louis Post Dispatch.
Gargac spent more than $3,000 to create a mobile studio in his car. Though these passengers were videotaped without any written or verbal consent, Gargac believes he did nothing wrong.
On the back of his vehicle, he had a sticker that informed passengers that the car had cameras for “security” purposes. And if they enter a stranger’s vehicle, he said, they are giving their consent and understand that they wouldn’t have the same level of privacy as they might in their own car.
What are Uber, Lyft, and Twitch doing about this? Lyft deactivated Gargac almost immediately, and though it took Uber a couple of days, it too terminated his contract. Twitch said that it would remove the videos if it received any complaints from the passengers. As of writing this, Gargac’s channel has disappeared.
Based on his actions, you might think Gargac would face serious legal implications. However, there are no guidelines as to what it entails to have privacy when you are getting into someone else’s personal vehicle. Gargac, for one, believes that his vehicle is public space (meaning that according to Missouri law, he could technically videotape freely).
It is likely, though, that he will be sued by many of his passengers. With legal action, he could face criminal charges. Though there are no specific broken laws in Missouri, he did some of his driving in Illinois, a state that requires anyone being recorded to give consent. However, legal experts say that it will be difficult to prosecute Gargac. That’s how vague and inadequate the laws are.
As scary as this is, Gargac is not the only rideshare driver to stream their journeys. In fact, Gargac began filming his passengers only because he wasn’t enjoying other streaming efforts online. In those cases, they all asked the passengers for permission, which to Gargac, meant the “shows” felt scripted.
“I didn’t like it. It was fake. It felt produced,” he told the Post Dispatch. “So I felt like I can do it, but better.”
The big difference between what Gargac did and those other streams (beyond the lack of consent) was that Gargac invested in lighting, multiple cameras, a 12-button control panel so he could toggle between shots while driving, and a data setup that ensured his live-streams would remain connected.
What’s clear is that current laws need changing to better protect rideshare users from guys like Gargac. Uber, for one, is saying that it will re-evaluate its drivers’ policy.
So next time you hail an Uber or Lyft, be sure to take a scan around the cabin and look for any signs of cameras. After all, in today’s day and age, you never know who could be watching.
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