If you’re in the #stLouis area, don’t take uber or lyft rides from Jason Gargac (pictured below).— WagatweWanjuki (@wagatwe) July 21, 2018
He is an aspiring police officer making a living off of recording passengers without consent because when he does ask for consent, he doesn’t like that people say no. pic.twitter.com/yU8Tr7a20j
A ride-sharing driver in St. Louis, Missouri, had taken around 700 rides since March 2018, and nearly all of them were live-streamed without the passengers’ consent.
According to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Jason Gargac, was removed as a driver for both Uber and Lyft after it was revealed he had been broadcasting his passengers on a video streaming platform, Twitch, for months.
Gargac reportedly uploaded hundreds of videos of his passengers under the username “JustSmurf.” The livestream occasionally revealed the passengers' full names and even their destinations along with private conversations.
Though the reports were alarming enough for both the ride-sharing companies who reportedly deactivated the driver's accounts, the 32-year-old had little or no regret for his peculiar behavior.
In an interview with the newspaper, he said the livestream was "secondary," and the cameras were for the "security that I feel knowing if something happens, immediately there can be a response versus hopefully you'll find my truck in a ditch three weeks later."
However, he did admit that most of the passengers weren’t comfortable with the idea of getting recorded, so he decided to film them without their knowledge.
“I try to capture the natural interactions between myself and the passengers — what a Lyft and Uber ride actually is,” he told the Post-Dispatch.
But the fact Gargac had about 4,350 Twitch followers, and around 100 of them pay a minimum of $5 a month to subscribe to his channel, suggested apart from security and quality assurances purposes, he had financial motivates to continue such blatant invasion of privacy.
In footage reviewed by the publication, riders would climb into Gargac's vehicle, their faces illuminated by purple lights placed above the backseats.
Though many of his interactions with passengers were along the lines of making cordial small talks, his online audience were not as pleasant.
While passengers, including children, drunk college students, and women talked trash about relatives and friends, threw up, kissed, complained about their bosses in Gargac’s vehicle, an unseen online audience mocked individuals, rate the attractiveness of female passengers and made comments on things that were not any of their business whatsoever.
But Gargac saw nothing wrong with it. What’s worse, despite ethical concerns, what the 32-year-old did is completely legal under Missouri’s "one-party consent" laws, which require that only one participant in a conversation be aware a recording is happening for it to be legal.
And that is why Gargac appears to be in the clear, legally, as even Uber told the paper in a statement, “Recording passengers without their consent is illegal in some states, but not Missouri.”
Nevertheless, his actions were disturbing enough to get him removed as a driver from both the ride-hailing services.
“The safety and comfort of the Lyft community is our top priority, and we have deactivated this driver,” Lyft said in a statement.
“The driver’s access to the app has been removed while we evaluate his partnership with Uber,” stated Uber.
In his defense, Gargac told the paper he created on-screen graphics to prevent his viewers from selectively “clipping,” or editing out short clips of female passengers and he would also censor viewers’ comments that were racist, homophobic or sexually aggressive.
However, at the same time, he made sure his online audiences were kept entertained. To attract viewers, he used to tweet his driving schedule, announcing: “I am now LIVE driving awesome people around the St. Louis area! Come check out what kind of content we can come across tonight!”
Gargac might have gotten away with what appears to be a grave violation of privacy, but there’s no denying the fact, acts like these could have serious repercussions.
The passenger getting surreptitiously recorded might be a minor or not in a good state of mind or had skipped work or might be a member of the LGBTQ community who hadn’t publicly come out yet– the possibilities of such situations are endless.
"You could definitely out someone in that scenario who is not out,” said Donald Heider, founder of Center for Digital Ethics and Policy at Loyola University in Chicago, who has encouraged tech companies to hire ethicists to deal with such issues.
Banner Image Credits: REUTERS/Simon Dawson/Illustration