The women who stepped into Jason Gargac's Chevy had no idea that strangers were publicly rating their appearance from behind the comfort of a computer screen.
Gargac, an aspiring police officer in St. Louis, said he initially took a job driving for Uber to make ends meet. But not long after, he became a television host of sorts.
On Twitch, a live streaming platform, Gargac played to the camera between rides, thanking people for tuning in and sharing his own critiques of his passengers’ looks. The passengers, on the other hand, appeared to have no idea that they were being recorded as they stepped into his car and began talking.
In the approximately 700 rides that Gargac filmed, his passengers often embarrassed themselves -- or worse. The passengers would reveal their last names, addresses, crushes, family problems, and gripes with bosses, all while strangers mocked them online.
Uber and Lyft eventually cut ties with driver
Uber and Lyft initially downplayed the news that one of their drivers was making entertainment out of peoples lower moments, a discovery that was revealed by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch newspaper.
Gargac admitted to the newspaper that he purposely worked weekend nights because passengers were more likely to be intoxicated then.
Passengers who discovered that they had been filmed and complained to Uber about it said they were only offered a $5 credit and a promise to not be paired with Gargac again.
Both companies initially told the Post-Dispatch that Gargac was not breaking any laws because Missouri is a one-party consent state when it comes to recordings.
But after the local newspaper published an investigative report about Gargac’s livestream channel this past weekend, both companies changed course and said that they had cut ties with him completely.
Gargac, whom the Post reported did not want his own last name printed in their newspaper, was also kicked off Twitch. Until his channel went offline, it had amassed over four thousand followers, a figure that made Gargac feel “forever grateful,” according to a Tweet he sent out to his fans in June.
Meanwhile, passengers interviewed by the paper said they they felt deeply violated.
Recordings all too common
Ethics aside, secret recordings in Uber and Lyft cars are legally murky territory because it’s unclear whether they count as a private space, experts say.
But common sense dictates that passengers and drivers alike should expect to be filmed, as many Uber and Lyft users film rides for their own protection.
Still, drivers typically don’t air the footage unless the passengers become violent, as the infamous Miami doctor Anjali Ramkissoon did two years ago. Nearly three million people reveled in footage showing Ramkissoon attempting to hit her Uber driver and throw his possessions out of the window.
The footage elevated Ramkissoon, a neurologist, to the status of internet celebrity that the public loved to hate. Ramkissoon was fired shortly after the incident and said that she had to change her cell phone number because strangers would not stop calling to yell at her.
Drivers and passengers have also been captured engaging in sex acts in the car, using racist language, or simply behaving rudely. Uber’s own former CEO Travis Kalanick even proved that he wasn’t immune to the trap.
Last year, an Uber driver who realized he was transporting the company’s then-CEO confronted Kalanick about low wages and other problems that Uber drivers face. Kalanick dismissed the concerns as people not taking responsibility “for their own shit.”
Like other passengers caught in embarrassing moments, Kalanick later said he was ashamed of his behavior.