ST. LOUIS – Ride-hailing companies Uber and Lyft have cut ties with a driver who recorded hundreds of St. Louis-area passengers without their permission and livestreamed the video.
Jason Gargac, 32, of Florissant, Missouri, has given about 700 rides since March and most have been streamed to his channel on the live video website Twitch, where he goes by the username "JustSmurf," the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported.
On a recent Saturday night, a posting showed two women in their 20s in Gargac's black Chevrolet Silverado. One commenter rated the women based on their looks. Another wrote simply, "This is creepy."
Uber said Monday it has ended its relationship with Gargac. Lyft has deactivated the driver from its app.
Children, intoxicated college students and public figures, including Jerry Cantrell, lead guitarist with the band Alice in Chains, have been among the unwitting passengers, the Post-Dispatch reported. First names, and occasionally full names, are revealed.
Passengers have thrown up, kissed, talked trash about relatives and friends and complained about their bosses.
Gargac, a bearded Army veteran, rarely specifies that he is streaming live but a few passengers who noticed were told he was recording for safety, the Post-Dispatch reported after viewing dozens of hours of footage.
To Gargac, it's form of virtual people-watching, but one that can bring an income.
"I try to capture the natural interactions between myself and the passengers — what a Lyft and Uber ride actually is," he said.
But some riders told the newspaper their privacy had been violated and they didn't know they were livestreamed and wouldn't have consented.
"We got in an Uber at 2 a.m. to be safe, and then I find out that because of that, everything I said in that car is online and people are watching me. It makes me sick," one female passenger told the Post-Dispatch.
It is not a crime in Missouri for parties to record their own interactions, unless it shows someone nude without that person's consent. It wasn't clear if police were investigating. An email message to St. Louis police was not immediately returned.
Information from: St. Louis Post-Dispatch, http://www.stltoday.com