According to reports, 23-year-old Jason Gargac of Florissant, Missouri, has given around 700 rides in the St. Louis area since he began driving for Uber in March. He installed a camera on the dashboard of his car and livestreamed videos of his passengers on Twitch, a streaming video platform owned by Twitch Interactive, under the username "JustSmurf."
Many of the videos reveal passengers' full names, while others show passengers throwing up, kissing, complaining about their bosses or trash-talking relatives, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported Monday. Many of the anonymous online comments on the videos mocked conversations between passengers and made sexual and offensive comments regarding female passengers' bodies.
"I feel violated. I'm embarrassed," one passenger who was recorded in the Uber recently told the Post-Dispatch. "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," she added.
Gargac, who graduated from police academy and is looking for a police officer job, recently told the Post-Dispatch that he was just attempting to "capture the natural interactions between myself and the passengers."
"The livestream and the Twitch and all that is really more secondary than the security that I feel knowing if something happens, immediately there can be a response, versus hopefully you'll find my truck in a ditch three weeks later," he added.
He also admitted to earning about $3,500 from the videos since March through subscriptions and donations called "bits" from Twitch users.
Since the Post-Dispatch report was published earlier Monday, Gargac's Twitch channel, which had about 4,500 followers and about 100 subscribers, was shut down.
Several passengers also recently told the Post-Dispatch that when they first complained to Uber about Gargac's livestream, the company gave them a $5 credit and said that they would not be paired with Gargac as a driver again in the future. In addition, both Lyft and Uber released statements earlier this month stating that livestreaming is legal in Missouri, as only a single party needs to consent to a recording.
"Driver partners are responsible for complying with the law when providing trips, including privacy laws," an Uber spokesperson told the Post-Dispatch earlier this month. "Recording passengers without their consent is illegal in some states, but not Missouri."
A Lyft spokesperson also recently told the newspaper that drivers are just required to abide by local laws "including with regard to the use of any recording device."
However, following the release of the Post-Dispatch article, an Uber spokesperson released a new statement, saying, "The troubling behavior in the videos is not in line with our Community Guidelines. The driver's access to the app has been removed while we evaluate his partnership with Uber." Gargac has since been suspended by both ride-sharing services.