Getting into an Uber or Lyft seems like a good idea. You expect the driver to be friendly, professional, and a cautious driver. And while it is almost always the case, there are instances when ridesharing apps pose additional dangers and risks to the passenger.
Now, we are not talking about Uber or Lyft safety in terms of motor vehicle accidents, we are talking about the dangers posed by Uber and Lyft drivers to their passengers. Over the past few years, we have seen numerous headlines that Uber and Lyft drivers sexually harassed and assaulted their passengers, physically assaulted them, kidnapped them, or engaged in other types of crime and misconduct.
And while all these things relate to passenger safety in Uber and Lyft cars, what about passenger privacy? “The topic of passenger safety in ridesharing apps had not been discussed much until recently,” says our Los Angeles Lyft accident attorney from the Law Offices of Howard Craig Kornberg.
Earlier this month, Lyft and Uber passenger privacy became one of the most talked-about topics in California and all across the United States, following the news of an Uber and Lyft driver livestreaming footage of unaware passengers in the car.
How did the Uber and Lyft driver record his passengers?
The Uber and Lyft driver named Jason Gargac, 32, used cameras in his vehicle to livestream footage of passengers without their consent. The livestream was broadcast live on the streaming website, Twitch.tv. Hundreds of passengers had been become victims of invasion of passenger privacy before his Twitch account, called JustSmurf, was suspended.
Gargac was streaming footage of Uber and Lyft passengers he has driven without informing them that they are being recorded or seeking their consent. The footage, which was recorded with cameras placed at the car’s dashboard, was used by Gargac to not only get more subscribers and views on his Twitch channel, but also cash in.
It is estimated that Gargac’s Twitch channel has earned about $3,000 in subscriptions and donations on top of the $150-300 average per-night take. But that is only half of the problem. Since Twitch enables a live-chat system, in which viewers can comment live on the streaming footage, online commenters would comment on passengers’ appearance and conversation in real time.
Did the Uber and Lyft driver violate any law by recording passengers without consent?
But here is the most bizarre part: Gargac did not violate any laws, since it all took place in St. Louis, Missouri. Missouri is a one-party consent state, which means only one of the parties needs to be aware of or consent to being recorded in order for that recording or streaming to be lawful.
“Therefore, Gargac has been able to avoid any lawsuits for recording Lyft and Uber passengers without their knowledge and consent, as he technically did not violate any state laws concerning privacy in Missouri, even though he was the one party who consented to being recorded,” explains our Los Angeles Uber accident attorney.
Are Uber and Lyft drivers in California allowed to record their passengers without consent?
In his defense, Gargac argued that a stranger’s car is a space where privacy is “not expected,” so when the passengers entered his vehicle to get to their destination, he did not owe them a duty to ensure their privacy, which, according to our Lyft accident attorney in Los Angeles, is a questionable assumption.
Also, Gargac said in his defense that whenever the passengers asked about the cameras, he did tell them that the cameras were recording but did not always say that these were streaming live to Twitch. The Lyft and Uber driver also claims that he had stickers on the windows of his car that read, “For security this vehicle is equipped with audio and visual recording devices. Consent is given by entering vehicle,” but these were quite difficult to notice.
If Gargac was driving Lyft or Uber in California or one of the other two-party consent states, the passengers could have sued him for invading their privacy. In California all parties of the conversation must consent to being recorded for the recording (audio or video) or streaming to be lawful.
Have your privacy or safety been violated by an Uber or Lyft drivers in Los Angeles or elsewhere in California? Consult with our car accident attorney from the Law Offices of Howard Craig Kornberg to find out more. Schedule a free consultation by calling at 310-997-0904 or complete this contact form.