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

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 500286

Reported Deaths: 9968
CountyCasesDeaths
Harrison34281537
DeSoto32039402
Hinds31911626
Jackson24466379
Rankin21971390
Lee15501235
Madison14566279
Jones13825242
Forrest13438250
Lauderdale11984316
Lowndes11003188
Lamar10510135
Pearl River9494237
Lafayette8542139
Hancock7727126
Washington7418157
Oktibbeha7139131
Monroe6765176
Warren6679176
Pontotoc6655102
Neshoba6625206
Panola6511131
Marshall6460134
Bolivar6302148
Union601294
Pike5815152
Alcorn5662101
Lincoln5431134
George496579
Scott472198
Tippah468381
Prentiss466581
Leflore4654144
Itawamba4628105
Adams4584119
Tate4579109
Copiah447792
Simpson4440116
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Wayne439172
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Sunflower4235105
Marion4225107
Coahoma4154104
Leake408088
Newton381679
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Stone359764
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Attala331089
Jasper329565
Winston314091
Clay307676
Chickasaw299467
Clarke292194
Calhoun278945
Holmes267887
Smith263350
Yalobusha233347
Tallahatchie226851
Walthall218763
Greene218248
Lawrence212440
Perry205256
Amite204755
Webster202646
Noxubee186440
Montgomery179456
Jefferson Davis171442
Carroll168738
Tunica159439
Benton148438
Kemper141941
Choctaw133326
Claiborne132237
Humphreys129238
Franklin119428
Quitman106428
Wilkinson104839
Jefferson94434
Sharkey64020
Issaquena1937
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Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 815989

Reported Deaths: 15311
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson1144621915
Mobile723961330
Madison52114694
Shelby37488348
Baldwin37167547
Tuscaloosa35013606
Montgomery34031734
Lee23177245
Calhoun22190476
Morgan20719376
Etowah19774497
Marshall18277302
Houston17333411
St. Clair15967339
Cullman15365292
Limestone15270198
Elmore15126284
Lauderdale14205294
Talladega13783276
DeKalb12598260
Walker11142369
Blount10132175
Autauga9910146
Jackson9819182
Coffee9190191
Dale8874185
Colbert8803201
Tallapoosa7063198
Escambia6755130
Covington6695184
Chilton6608161
Russell626659
Franklin5947105
Chambers5563142
Marion4966126
Dallas4902200
Clarke474083
Pike4722105
Geneva4567126
Winston4493103
Lawrence4286117
Bibb423686
Barbour356576
Marengo337489
Monroe330863
Randolph328263
Butler325396
Pickens314182
Henry311865
Hale310688
Cherokee301660
Fayette291379
Washington251151
Cleburne247160
Crenshaw244075
Clay241268
Macon231763
Lamar219547
Conecuh185753
Coosa179439
Lowndes174464
Wilcox167839
Bullock151644
Perry138440
Sumter132038
Greene126244
Choctaw87827
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