Uber and Lyft drop driver for livestreaming passengers on Twitch

Uber and Lyft have suspended a driver following a report that he livestreamed passengers without their expressed cons...

Posted: Jul 23, 2018 10:44 AM
Updated: Jul 23, 2018 10:44 AM

Uber and Lyft have suspended a driver following a report that he livestreamed passengers without their expressed consent.

The driver filmed and live streamed his passengers and their interactions with him on Twitch, a service commonly used to stream video games, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch first reported.

The livestream occasionally revealed the passengers' full names and residences, as well as private conversations and intimate moments, the newspaper reported.

Meanwhile, an audience would comment on their appearances and conversations.

But here's the twist: It's completely legal, despite ethical questions raised regarding passengers' privacy.

That's because Missouri is what's called a "one-party consent" state, which only requires that one participant in a conversation be aware a recording is happening for it to be legal.

Regardless, the report has attracted enough attention that both ride-share companies deactivated the driver's accounts.

In a statement, an Uber spokesperson said the "troubling behavior in the videos" violated its community guidelines, and that the "driver's access to the app has been removed while we evaluate his partnership with Uber."

Alexandra LaManna, a spokesperson for Lyft, said, "The safety and comfort of the Lyft community is our top priority, and we have deactivated this driver."

The driver said it was for his security

CNN was unsuccessful in its attempts to reach the driver, who was identified by the Post-Dispatch as 32-year-old Jason Gargac.

Gargac gave an interview to the St. Louis newspaper, in which he said the cameras were there for his own security. He said the livestream was "secondary," and the cameras were for the "security that I feel knowing if something happens, immediately there can be a response versus hopefully you'll find my truck in a ditch three weeks later."

In footage reviewed by the Post-Dispatch, riders would climb into Gargac's vehicle, their faces illuminated by purple lights mounted above the backseats.

Their conversations and actions were streamed live to the Twitch platform, where viewers -- some of whom paid Gargac -- watched and commented. Some viewers paid a monthly subscription fee, the newspaper reported, while others donated money or gave tips.

If passengers did notice the little camera mounted on the windshield of Gargac's vehicle, the newspaper reported, he told them it was for his security. According to the Post-Dispatch, Gargac displayed a small sticker on the back passenger window informing passengers that his car was "equipped with audio and visual recording devices" for security purposes. "Consent given by entering vehicle," it said."

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But the paper notes Gargac appeared to contradict that statement in an interview, saying he started driving for Uber and Lyft with the purpose of hosting the livestream.

"I try to capture the natural interactions between myself and the passengers -- what a Lyft and Uber ride actually is," he told the newspaper.

Some of Gargac's passengers who were tracked down by the Post-Dispatch weren't happy when they were told about the livestream.

"I feel violated. I'm embarrassed," said one, who reportedly asked to not be identified. "We got in an Uber at 2 a.m. to be safe, and then I find out that, because of that, everything I said in that car is online and people are watching me. It makes me sick."

Reached for a response, Twitch wouldn't comment directly on Gargac. But the company did tell CNN its community guidelines "do not allow people to share content that invades others' privacy." If such a violation took place, the company would take action.

Videos that had been archived to Gargac's Twitch page were no longer on the website Saturday night.

Why it's legal

In an earlier statement to CNN, Lyft noted that its drivers are "required to follow applicable local laws and regulations, including with regard to the use of any recording device."

Uber also notes a similar policy on its website, which says their drivers are allowed to use video cameras to record riders for their own safety, so long as local regulations that may require riders' consent are followed.

And this is why Gargac appears to be in the clear, legally: Missouri law doesn't require Gargac to let his passengers in on the fact that they're being recorded. He does not need their consent to film them.

In Missouri and a number of other states, as long as one party knows about the recording -- the person doing the recording, for example -- it's perfectly legal. There are other two-party consent states, where two participants in a conversations are required to consent to being recorded.

But CNN legal analyst Page Pate acknowledges this is new territory for many states' laws concerning privacy and recording.

"Many of these laws that were drafted to deal with one-party consent were just made to deal with (audio) recording devices," Pate said, before there were webcams, and before cellphones had high-quality cameras.

"When these laws were drafted and enacted, I don't think any of these states could have envisioned what we have in this case, where you have livestreaming video," he said.

With video, he added, it's not just about what people are recorded saying; there's the added layer of having their image and actions recorded as well.

It's possible that Gargac's passengers could have some legal recourse, Pate said, but their cases would have to rely on the fact that Gargac was not just recording, but also livestreaming, and whether they had a "reasonable expectation of privacy" in the backseat of an Uber or Lyft.

"It's a fact-by-fact case," Pate said, "and I don't think there have been any court decisions to deal with this particular issue."

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

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Cases: 319948

Reported Deaths: 7371
CountyCasesDeaths
DeSoto22285267
Hinds20719421
Harrison18431317
Rankin13901282
Jackson13718248
Madison10263224
Lee10059176
Jones8467167
Forrest7832153
Lauderdale7261242
Lowndes6517150
Lamar635188
Lafayette6313121
Washington5425137
Bolivar4841133
Panola4670110
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Pearl River4605147
Marshall4574105
Warren4440121
Pontotoc425873
Monroe4157135
Union415777
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Lincoln4008112
Hancock386987
Leflore3515125
Tate342486
Sunflower339491
Pike3371111
Alcorn327272
Scott320374
Yazoo314171
Adams308086
Itawamba305178
Copiah299966
Coahoma298784
Simpson298589
Tippah291968
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Leake272074
Marion271280
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Wayne264642
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Newton248663
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Holmes190474
Stone188433
Clay187954
Tallahatchie180041
Clarke178980
Calhoun174132
Yalobusha167840
Smith164134
Walthall135347
Greene131834
Lawrence131124
Montgomery128643
Noxubee128034
Perry127238
Amite126242
Carroll122330
Webster115032
Jefferson Davis108234
Tunica108127
Claiborne103130
Benton102325
Humphreys97533
Kemper96629
Franklin85023
Quitman82216
Choctaw79118
Wilkinson69632
Jefferson66228
Sharkey50917
Issaquena1696
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Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 548657

Reported Deaths: 11306
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson810031566
Mobile42105831
Madison35690525
Tuscaloosa26173458
Shelby25607254
Montgomery25081614
Baldwin21868314
Lee16278176
Calhoun14719327
Morgan14629285
Etowah14175364
Marshall12453230
Houston10781287
Elmore10293214
Limestone10179157
St. Clair10162251
Cullman9952201
Lauderdale9603250
DeKalb8972190
Talladega8460184
Walker7338280
Autauga7241113
Blount6945139
Jackson6932113
Colbert6413140
Coffee5635127
Dale4928116
Russell454841
Chilton4476116
Franklin431382
Covington4275122
Tallapoosa4138155
Escambia401680
Chambers3728124
Dallas3607158
Clarke353061
Marion3240107
Pike314378
Lawrence3133100
Winston283472
Bibb268564
Geneva257981
Marengo250565
Pickens236962
Barbour234559
Hale227278
Butler224271
Fayette218862
Henry194543
Randolph187544
Cherokee187345
Monroe180041
Washington170539
Macon163051
Clay160059
Crenshaw155957
Cleburne153444
Lamar146837
Lowndes142254
Wilcox126930
Bullock124342
Conecuh113630
Coosa111729
Perry108626
Sumter105732
Greene93634
Choctaw62125
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