At least one driver working for Uber has been livestreaming passengers without their consent, according to a recent story in the St Louis Post-Dispatch. Viewers on Twitch have been rating the female passengers, speculating about incomes, and chatting about the marriages and personal lives of unsuspecting users of the ridesharing service.
There were already at least two other known cases of drivers turning their passengers into the subjects of livestreams, per the Post-Dispatch, sometimes with consent and sometimes without, including some in California and one in Wisconsin.
We could all stand to take a deep breath and acknowledge that these are a couple of seriously unethical cases out of a huge number of usually-innocuous daily trips provided by ridesharing companies. Still, it’s a grievous violation of privacy and a potential safety issue for riders.
The driver in St Louis has been cut out from Uber service, according to a statement made by the company to the Post-Dispatch. He was also recording passengers he took for Lyft, another ride sharing service in the US, which has similarly cut him from its service.
So you won’t be running into him, but what else can you do to avoid an invasion of privacy while hitching a convenient ride?
First, just being aware of the risk is a good start. Look for cameras, and ask questions about any stickers mentioning recording equipment.
A sticker on the back of the vehicle in question read, “Notice: For security this vehicle is equipped with audio and visual recording devices. Consent given by entering vehicle.” Passengers interviewed said they hadn’t noticed it.
Being aware of potential notices such as this can help make sure you know to avoid them — or can request that the driver turn the camera off for your ride.
That said, one of the disturbing aspects of the story in question is that when the driver was specifically asked about the presence of dash-mounted cameras, he lied and brushed them off as recording devices “for safety”.
While traditional taxi companies often have cameras installed, ostensibly for driver safety (and with signs notifying you of their presence), you should be suspicious of any camera pointed at you in an Uber vehicle.
If there’s a sticker mentioning recording or surveillance and you aren’t comfortable being filmed, opt out of that ride. It isn’t company policy to have cameras in place, and if you aren’t given the option to disable recording/streaming, order another ride.
It’s also a good practice to report this to the company and mention it in your rating. If it doesn’t make a difference to the company, at least you can let other riders know.
Unfortunately, cameras can be concealed, and it’s unlikely that any driver going that direction is going to post a friendly warning sticker outside the vehicle. So it’s “ride at your own risk…” and probably keep all of your clothes on.