Updated July 22 at 8 a.m.
A driver for Uber and Lyft has streamed live video of hundreds of riders in the St. Louis area without their knowledge in recent months, making money by broadcasting that stream on his Twitch channel, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports.
The driver, Jason Gargac, began driving for ride-hailing services Uber and Lyft in March. Since then, he has given more than 700 rides — and broadcast nearly all of them on Twitch, the video-streaming website owned by Amazon.
The videos have included names of passengers, images of homes and an assortment of conversations about personal subjects — and they’ve been shared with Twitch followers who watch and comment on the often-unwitting subjects.
Gargac is not the only person who streams Uber and Lyft rides, but he’s rare in that he does not voluntarily tell riders they’re being streamed. He used to disclose to passengers that they were being recorded, but he said their behavior felt “fake” when he did that.
The driver says he’s not breaking any laws: Missouri is one-party consent state, meaning only one person must agree to a conversation being recorded. Chip Stewart, a professor at Texas Christian University who has written about privacy and livestreaming, told the Post-Dispatch that any legal case against Gargac would face obstacles.
Gargac has a small sticker on a back window that says his vehicle is equipped with recording devices “for security.”
But in “dozens of hours” of footage reviewed by the Post-Dispatch, “very few” people notice the camera, according to the report.
Several passengers interviewed by the Post-Dispatch said that they complained to Uber after learning about the video stream. The ride-hailing company gave them a $5 credit and said they would not be paired with Gargac again.
Uber and Lyft initially responded to questions from the Post-Dispatch with prepared statements, noting that the practice of recording passengers is legal in Missouri. Twitch did not reply to multiple interview requests.
However, after the Post-Dispatch published the article, representatives for Uber and Lyft said the companies had suspended and deactivated Gargac, respectively. Gargac’s Twitch channel disappeared Saturday.
Gargac’s channel has about 4,350 followers. About 100 subscribers pay $5 per month to support him. He says he’s made around $3,500 since March from subscriptions, donations and tips.
He spent about $3,000 to outfit his vehicle for streaming, installing two cameras and a control panel to toggle between camera views as he’s driving.
Update July 22 at 8 a.m. – This story was edited under the “companies respond” subheading to reflect responses from Uber and Twitch reported by the Post-Dispatch after publication of the original story.