Uber, Lyft driver booted after newspaper reveals he was livestreaming passengers

A St. Louis Uber and Lyft driver has been kicked off both companies’ platforms after the reported Friday night that he had been livestreaming his passengers for months without their consent.

According to the newspaper, Jason Gargac, a 32-year-old man from Florissant, Missouri, had been giving hundreds of rides since March—and he has streamed nearly all of them live, under the Twitch handle “JustSmurf.

” (His Twitch account has also been shuttered.)

As the wrote:

Passengers have included children, drunk college students and unwitting public figures such as a local TV news reporter and Jerry Cantrell, lead guitarist with the band Alice in Chains.

First names, and occasionally full names, are revealed. Homes are shown. Passengers have thrown up, kissed, talked trash about relatives and friends and complained about their bosses in Gargac’s truck.

All the while, an unseen online audience watches, evaluating women’s bodies, judging parents and mocking conversations.

While Gargac did have a small sign on his car that theoretically provided “consent” to “recording,” many passengers did not notice it, and it did not indicate at all that people were being livestreamed.

He openly advertised his livestreaming on Twitter:

I am now LIVE driving awesome people around the St. Louis area!

Come check out what kind of content we can come across tonight!https://t.co/6thABEyldF

— JustSmurf (@thatguysmurf) June 14, 2018

When Ars contacted Uber on Saturday, Carly DeBeikes, a company spokeswoman, emailed a statement: “The troubling behavior in the videos is not in line with our Community Guidelines. The driver’s access to the app has been removed while we evaluate his partnership with Uber.”

DeBeikes also reminded us that Missouri is a “one-party consent” state for the purposes of recording (California, where Uber and Lyft are based, are not, by contrast).

The Uber spokeswoman would not answer Ars’ question as to whether the company felt that non-consensual livestreaming was allowed.

Kate Margolis, a Lyft spokeswoman, sent Ars a similar statement: “All drivers on the Lyft platform are required to follow applicable local laws and regulations, including with regard to the use of any recording device. You can find our policy here on Lyft’s safety page.”

Like DeBeikes, Margolis also would not answer Ars’ question about company policy with respect to livestreaming. The “safety page” does not mention the term specifically.

Gargac did not immediately respond to Ars’ attempts to reach him via Twitter, but said on Saturday:

Just a heads up for everyone, as you all know….for me transparency is always key.  I’ve had a few offline conversations with some folks, and they suggested getting rid of the stored vods as step #1 of trying to calm everyone down. I’ve done that……for now.

— JustSmurf (@thatguysmurf) July 21, 2018

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