Legally Speaking: How much privacy can you expect from ride-share driver

Jul 30, 2018, 9:49 AM | Updated: 10:47 am

More and more people are using ride-sharing companies such as Uber and Lyft. In my experience, these can be an affordable and reliable way to travel to sporting events, the airport and nights out on the town. That being said, with the good almost always comes the bad.

There have been allegations of assault and inappropriate conduct on the part of both passengers and drivers. Ride-sharing companies have created tools and apps to combat this. Some drivers even record the interactions in their vehicles for safety purposes, which most would believe is a wise decision. Unfortunately, this legitimate “safety measure” has also been used for illegitimate purposes such as livestreaming passengers and their conversations for fame or money. That is exactly what an Uber driver did, and it prompted public outrage and this post.

This raises the discussion about what is private and who has the right to livestream, record or photograph others and use it for their own purposes without consent.

Can a driver record you when you are in their car without your consent? The answer is yes, at least in Arizona they can. Arizona is a one-party consent state. That means that a participant in a conversation can record (audio and/or visual) the conversation without the other person’s knowledge or consent. In the Uber driver example above, if the driver is having a conversation with the passenger, they can record it.

If the driver is not a party to the conversation, they are not supposed to have the right to record without the speakers’ consent. I say “they are not supposed to have the right” because the concern for safety may, and often does, outweigh the right to not be recorded.

Now comes the next issue. Suppose the driver does record their passenger, whether there is a conversation or not. What are they allowed to do with it? This is a great question, but it does not have a clear answer.

Even if the driver is a party to the conversation, and even if they have the right to record it for safety purposes, they may not have the right to share it, let alone stream it.

Arizona has several causes of action that can form the basis of a lawsuit if someone uses personal, private information about someone without their consent. In the Uber example above, if the driver publishes the recording and streams it without consent, a passenger could sue both the company and the driver for disclosing private information, their picture or details about the person.

But wait, you might be thinking that being in a car is a “public place” and you give up the right to any kind of privacy in what you say, do and look like in a car. Well, that is not entirely true. It really comes down to one question: “What would a reasonable person want/do/think in the situation?” Would a reasonable person believe they have an amount of privacy in a ride-sharing vehicle? Would a reasonable person expect the driver to livestream the conversations they are having inside the vehicle? Would a reasonable person expect the driver to share their photograph with the world? The answers to all these questions is “probably not.” Since a reasonable person would not expect these things to happen, it is likely the driver has set themselves up for a lawsuit.

A driver could easily sidestep any possible lawsuit by simply disclosing they are recording and/or livestreaming. They can post a very obvious notice inside the vehicle and tell passengers as they get in. This would result in many passengers promptly getting right back out of the car, but at least notice would be given and if the passenger stays, then the driver could argue consent.

Here is the bottom line. #LegallySpeaking: When you are in public, or in a ride-sharing vehicle, expect that you are being recorded, so act appropriately. If you are a driver, disclose that you are recording. Regardless of who you are, above all else, do not record or livestream someone without their permission. Live by the golden rule, people.

Monica Lindstrom

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Legally Speaking: How much privacy can you expect from ride-share driver