A driver for Uber and Lyft in America used a webcam to secretly record unsuspecting customers and nearly all of them have been live-streamed on Twitch, without passenger consent.
In a lengthy report, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch detailed the actions of Jason Gargac, a 32-year ride-hailing driver who took advantage of Missouri’s one-party consent laws to build up a Twitch following by live-streaming passengers — including children. At times, Gargac has inadvertently revealed the full names of his riders and what their homes and neighborhoods looked like on his channel, under the online handle “JustSmurf.”
Gargac isn’t the first driver to live stream his or her passengers on Twitch; the man says he stumbled onto the trend while surfing Twitch and decided to try it himself. He is, however, one of the few, if not the only one in Missouri, to do so without asking for permission first. (Other “IRL” ride-hailing live streamers often lose passengers the minute they disclose they’re streaming, the report notes.) Gargac has a $3,000 camera setup, including rear-facing and front-facing cameras that show the interior of the car and the environment he’s driving in. He has about 4,350 Twitch followers, and around 100 of them pay a minimum of $5 a month to subscribe to his channel and support it financially.
While there are laws from governing this type of behavior, the moral line over capturing video from people without their consent is a little murkier.
Lyft and Uber both have rules for how drivers should operate if they have dash cams or are recording video.
Lyft’s policy states:
Depending on local regulations, the use of dashboard cameras and other recording devices during rides may not be allowed. Some cities or states may require signage making known the presence of recording devices, while other regions may not allow recording devices at all.
Uber’s policy says something similar:
Uber allows driver-partners to install and use video cameras to record riders for purposes of safety.
Please note that local regulations may require individuals using recording equipment in vehicles to fully disclose to riders that they are being recorded in or around a vehicle and obtain consent.
Everything comes back to state law. The United States has a federal law regarding filming people without their consent, but it’s a little more complex than just yes or no. Things get even more complicated when it’s a car owned and operated by a private citizen. Gargac told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that he doesn’t consider people riding in another person’s car a private place — because it isn’t their property.
“I have sex in my bedroom,” Gargac said. “I don’t have sex in strangers’ cars. Because I have a reasonable expectation of privacy in the bedroom in my own house. I don’t have that in a stranger’s car.”
Missouri, where Gargac lives, operates on one-party consent laws, which state people “can record a phone call or conversation so long as you are a party to the conversation,” according to the Digital Media Law Project. Thirty-nine other states also have one-party consent laws regarding such recording activities.
Considering the conversation took place in Gargac’s car, and therefore in his vicinity, he is a member of the party. Since he consented to the video, it’s fine to record and stream, even if his passengers are unaware. California, Connecticut, Florida, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Montana, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania and Washington abide by two-party consent laws, which means that both parties must agree to being recorded.
Every visible and audible detail of hundreds of trips in his Chevrolet pickup — passengers’ faces, conversations and drop-off locations — were streamed on the website Twitch.
“I feel violated. I’m embarrassed,” said one passenger tracked down by the broadsheet, who asked not to 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.”
Gargac told the Dispatch that he was just capturing “natural interactions between myself and the passengers — what a Lyft and Uber ride actually is.”
But in the videos, he sometimes offered a darker rationale.
“This better be [expletive] content, I swear to God. This better be [expletive] content, that’s all I’m saying,” Gargac said as two women approached his truck, after going half-an-hour without a customer. “I mean, the blond girl looks kind of cute, if they’re together. The blonde is cute. The one who ordered is not.”
The two jumped in the car, unaware their trip is about to be streamed online.
“I really have this issue of telling Uber drivers my whole life story,” one of the women tells the creepy driver.
“It’s OK,” Gargac replies, laughing.