In a recent article from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch newspaper, a driver admitted that he had been making some extra money on the side.
The driver in question, who was signed up to drive for both Uber and Lyft, had kitted out his car with several cameras and recording devices. He admitted to the paper that he sought out “interesting” passengers to livestream to the Twitch platform. His reasoning: “(they) might make entertaining content, part of capturing and sharing the everyday reactions (about current topics)”.
He admitted that at first he told the passengers they were on video and after while felt that they weren’t candid enough and he felt that the conversations were staged. So to get better ratings, he stopped telling them! Ratings meant subscriptions and this meant money in the pocket. The driver claimed that he had spent $3,000 on equipment and had earned $3,500 before talking to the paper, which was a strange thing to do, although he didn’t want to give his full name – and does appear on some of the videos, so it wouldn’t be too difficult to find him!
Legally he did nothing wrong as far as the recordings. Missouri, like other US States, has a “one-party” consent law for wiretapping. That means that only the person doing the recording has to consent to it – if they are involved in the conversation! Incidentally, New York has a similar law that is helping the Government in some current court cases.
Morally though, this kind of behaviour does nothing to encourage people to use ride sharing schemes. Passengers don’t expect to have their conversations recorded or where they are going and some of the Twitch subscribers could have been looking for specific people to watch and maybe figure out where they were travelling to (or from). That could be a big problem for personal safety.
Both Uber and Lyft cancelled his right to be an independent contractor and put out statements to try and distance themselves from the driver. Prior to that, some friends had suggested putting a sign in the car to warn passengers, which he did. They have those in taxicabs in Sydney for security, however I wonder how many people read and note them.
The issue of privacy was raised in the article – and other related ones in several larger media outlets. This is an interesting topic: is the back of a ride sharing car or taxi a private place? I suggest not and certainly refrain from some conversation topics when travelling this way, just as I do on buses, trains or aeroplanes.
However, there is a moral and ethical discussion about live streaming passengers – even if they have seen the sign. Most articles discussed the legal aspects, which apparently aren’t that many as in some cases it would be hard to prove a privacy issue. On the flip side, the subscribers were apparently “rating” the passengers and commenting on the conversations and that sadly, is an indictment on the state of our community these days.
My issues with ride sharing companies is that I think the drivers need to be regulated just as taxi drivers are. Both types of driver do exactly the same thing, however ride share drivers are not licensed or tested the same way – I wrote about that in a recent article about New York taxis. Drivers like the one in St. Louis are an example of why licensing would weed out the lower quality “contractors”.
Another way is to force the ride sharing companies to employ the drivers directly, however that will never happen without intervention from Government or market pressure.