Uber, Lyft Suspend Driver Who Recorded St. Louis Passengers

Of about one dozen passengers interviewed by a local newspaper, all said they didn't know they were being livestreamed

Ride-hailing companies Uber and Lyft have suspended a driver who recorded hundreds of St. Louis-area passengers without their permission and livestreamed the video.

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported 32-year-old Jason Gargac of Florissant, Missouri, has given about 700 rides in the area since March. Almost all have been streamed to his channel on the live video website Twitch, where he goes by the username "JustSmurf."

NBC has not independent verified the report. 

Gargac said he's trying to "capture the natural interactions between myself and the passengers."

But some riders said they felt their privacy had been violated. Of about a dozen the newspaper interviewed, all said they didn't know they were livestreamed and wouldn't have consented.

Missouri only requires consent from one party to a recording, meaning no criminal case could be brough against Gargac, Daxton Stewart, a journalism professor at Texas Christian University in Fort Worth, who's studied the legal implications of livestreaming, told NBC News

If one of his livestreams revealed something private, like a sexual encounter or medical information and caused harm, then a civil action lawsuit could be successful, Stewart said. But the passenger could only sue the driver; Uber and Lyft have arbitration clauses in their terms of services, which prevent lawsuits. 

But even if it isn't illegal, experts say livestreaming passengers in that manner without their consent is unethical. 

"He should have been notifying people and giving them the option to opt in or opt out," Donald Heider, founder of Center for Digital Ethics and Policy at Loyola University in Chicago, told NBC. 

After the story's publication, Uber announced it was suspending Gargac's account and Lyft said it deactivated him as a driver.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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