Super Safe or Uber Creepy? Uber Starts Recording Rides

by: The Knowledge Group

December 05, 2019


Uber is testing a recording system in some Brazilian and Mexican cities, where recordings could be given to the police, Reuters observes. Both countries have high levels of serious violence on the roads, including killings. But the company’s on a collision course with privacy groups as it spreads the concept in the United States—a mission already underway in Texas, Florida and Tennessee.

Uber often fields complaints from passengers and drivers involving sexual assault allegations and safety concerns. Notably, the company has had to settle significant lawsuits over such claims. There is often no way to prove or disprove what happened inside the car.

Expecting Customers and Drivers to Consent to Recordings

Riders or drivers would tap into the Uber app’s safety feature before or during a trip. The encrypted recording could be heard only if Uber safety managers decide to unlock it.

So, even as Uber works on a safety problem, it’s setting up a tangle of privacy issues. State law largely controls the legalities of taping people and using recorded evidence, so there is no uniform law and policy to be applied across the board.

Moreover, Uber already has access to a daunting level of personal data.

AI and Facial Recognition on Wheels

Uber also has a video recording feature, reports the New York Times. It uses video to train artificial intelligence to warn drivers of dangers. It uses facial recognition to spot—and redirect—distracted drivers.

Texas Uber drivers can get the cameras for a monthly fee—to enhance their own safety, or clear them if an incident occurs. But will drivers feel pressed to consent to surveillance to keep their jobs safe?

As Uber continues to test its limits, civil liberties cases cannot be far behind. We’ll keep our readers posted.