Today as I was assembling the Comunicano Communique, I came across a story about an Uber Driver chronicling his passengers in his car during a one night photo safari over on Vice.com. It got me thinking about the passengers' right to privacy, what permissions are granted and who has the right to capture your image and then promote, publicize or use it. To take it one step farther, who gave drivers, car services and transportation companies the right to videotape or record you without your express written permission.
More and more we're seeing cameras pop up. In taxi's you have the dash mounted web cam that records the driver and the passenger in case there's an accident, so there's an actual record of any injury or damages incurred. That's all well and good, but the use of the video footage, and the implied permission being granted to others to make use the footage in case of an accident is far from correct. It's not. Thus to record someone having a make out session in the back seat, or the passenger having a conversation with someone either in the vehicle or on a phone is not being granted to anyone as it's the passenger's right to privacy that rules the day.
To go one step farther, while we grant Uber and Lyft the right to know where they picked us up, and where they dropped us off for billing purposes, that data is not meant to be used, shared or otherwise utilized by anyone but Uber, and solely to determine fares, rates and offers. For example, if I frequent a certain restaurant regularly, it's not Uber's data to sell to competitors who may offer me some form of an inducement to go to their restaurant--such as a free Uber ride to and from for my first visit unless I opt into those offers. And that data is certainly not Uber's to sell to any other group without first asking me if it's ok.
Today, I posed this question to Uber Support:
How do I make sure, that unless required by law, no Uber contractor (driver) or employee takes photographs, videotapes, records or otherwise capture my image, in transit conversations, retains any information heard, makes or keeps a written or digital record of my rides, pick up locations, food orders, etc.
I recognize that Uber drivers are independent contractors, and do acknowledge that Uber will use certain ride related data to make rides more convenient for passengers, I am concerned in light of recent press coverage about drivers taking photos of passengers, that the privacy of passengers may be put at risk and am seeking to understand what Uber is doing to ensure its customers rights and requests are being honored.
Please let me know what will be done to maintain and protect your customer's right to privacy in an era where privacy is being challenged at every turn.
As someone who is a fan of Uber and Lyft, as someone who uses TaskRabbit, FancyHands and other shared economy resources that are data driven and create new economies, I'm all for what they do, but I am wondering how in the arms length world of "contractors" vs. employees, Uber and by proxy, Lyft, are working to make sure customer privacy is being maintained by their drivers and others they "hire" to do the fulfillment of the ride.
Here is Uber's Reply--
I understand how this would make you feel uncomfortable. Partners are expected to follow local regulations regarding disclosure of any recordings they may do.
We aim to keep the Uber experience comfortable and seamless so, again, I appreciate you taking the time to write in to us about this.
We take the security and privacy of the personal information we collect and store seriously, and we use industry-standard security practices, such as firewalls and SSL (Secure Socket Layers), and encryption of data in transit, to help protect information. We also do not retain the full 16 digits of your credit card information.
If I can help with anything else please let me know.
At no time have I ever had an Uber driver tell me they are recording or taking photographs. As in the Orange County case that has gotten very litigious on all sides, the key is consent and how the laws in each state applies. Perhaps when riding in a shared ride service the right to 'not be recorded' should be the law, and permission granted, be the 'opt-in' vs. not being offered privacy at all.