Live-streaming Uber Dash Cam Part of Much Bigger Problem

  • September 18, 2018
  • Mark Hayes and Adam Jacobs

Many people are aware of the term “sharing economy” and often think of Uber as the poster child of such a platform. However, many (if not all) passengers of Uber and other ride- sharing services would likely be horrified to learn that their ride, and their conversations inside the vehicle, were being filmed and broadcast online for the whole world to watch.

Such was the reality for Uber and Lyft passengers in St. Louis. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch broke the story of Jason Gargac, an Uber and Lyft driver who filmed and surreptitiously broadcast all passengers in his vehicle without their knowledge or consent. Gargac started the practice in March 2018 and, by late March, livestreamed all his rides on Twitch. Gargac monetized this practice, earning roughly US$3,500.

Since a whole ride was broadcast, entire conversations between passengers were available online for live viewing. Occasionally, the broadcast would capture sexual content or images during the ride. Twitch users would often comment, sometimes inappropriately, on the passengers and Gargac would provide pre-ride commentary to the Twitch viewers before passengers would enter his vehicle.

The interior cameras in Gargac’s vehicle were visible to passengers, although it is unlikely that most of them were aware they were being filmed inside the vehicle at all times. At first, Gargac would inform passengers he was live streaming the ride, but, according to the Post-Dispatch, “he noticed most either refused to speak or acted out for the camera.” After this, Gargac stopped informing passengers of the broadcast, and, at some later point, posted a four-inch sticker on his back passenger window that stated “[f]or security this vehicle is equipped with audio and visual recording devices. Consent given by entering vehicle.”

The Post-Dispatch explains that Gargac’s practice was technically legal pursuant to Missouri law; most readers will be relieved to know that the same cannot be said under Canada’s privacy laws.

Canada’s federal private sector privacy legislation, and its provincial equivalents in British Columbia, Alberta and Quebec, require that any collection, use or disclosure of personal information must be limited to purposes that a reasonable person would consider appropriate in the circumstances. This restriction applies even if the individual in question has consented. It is unlikely that filming and broadcasting passengers in an Uber or Lyft would be considered appropriate in the circumstances.

Further, even if the purpose is reasonable, meaningful consent must be obtained. With respect to livestreaming of passengers, explicit consent would likely be required since the collection, use and disclosure of the sounds and images during the trip may involve sensitive personal information and, perhaps more importantly, would likely be outside the reasonable expectations of the individual passengers.

Passengers providing explicit consent to have their ride broadcast online would need to be informed of the practice in sufficient detail to ensure they meaningfully understand what they are providing consent to.

Gargac’s sticker would not pass muster for obtaining meaningful consent for livestreaming the actions and conversations of passengers in his vehicle. The sticker only provided notice that the vehicle was equipped with recording devices for security purposes and Gargac’s live streaming clearly went well beyond the stated purposes.

There are means by which video surveillance can be utilized by ride-sharing drivers for security purposes. The Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada has prepared guidelines in collaboration with its provincial counterparts in Alberta and British Columbia on overt video surveillance in the private sector. The guidelines note that video surveillance should be operated in a manner that collects the minimum amount of information to be effective and that the public be informed that video surveillance is occurring.

Gargac’s actions are illustrative of a bigger issue: spaces in which individuals expect privacy but fail to receive it. In late 2017, there were two separate incidents of Airbnb tenants discovering hidden cameras inside rental properties. In one of these incidents, the camera was concealed in a smoke alarm above a bed. In January 2017, a Toronto actor was convicted of mischief for installing a camera in a BluRay player in a condo he sublet to two women.

What should members of the public take away from the episode of the livestreaming Uber and Lyft driver? First, just because someone is doing something in public does not entitle you to collect and disseminate it for commercial purposes. Second, brief vague notices that someone is being recorded will likely not be sufficient, especially if the actual use of the information being collected is misrepresented or is otherwise unreasonable. And lastly, everyone has to be aware that in most public places they may well be watched — and perhaps livestreamed. Govern yourselves accordingly.

About the authors

Mark Hayes is the founding partner and Adam Jacobs a partner at Hayes eLaw LLP, a boutique IP, technology and privacy firm in Toronto.

This article was originally published by The Lawyer’s Daily (, part of LexisNexis Canada Inc.

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