Secret Uber recordings threaten passenger comfort

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While dashboard cameras are installed in cars to protect safety, they’re not there to infringe on privacy. 
 
On Oct. 29, an off-hours conversation between seven Ottawa Senators players in Phoenix was captured and published by  an Uber dashboard camera. In the five-minute video, the hockey players ridiculed an assistant coach and derided the team’s performance. It spread quickly, forcing the players involved to apologize despite their lack of knowledge about or consent to the video. 
 
Their apology was warranted, but its reason wasn’t. 
 
Every person privately discusses issues with their employer at some point in their lives. Their fame doesn’t legitimate the sharing of their private conversations.
 
Uber emphasized the recording violated their policy and Arizona law. Its release is troubling—it questions individuals’ freedom in private places in our surveillance-heavy society.
 
Dashboard recordings are critical to safety in cases of threats, harassment, or accidents. They protect drivers and passengers from altercations and can serve as evidence in courts of law. Their acceptance, however, doesn’t warrant their publication. 
 
While Uber drivers deserve respect and control in their vehicles, they shouldn’t violate passengers’ trust in non-dangerous cases. We shouldn’t question whether we’re able to speak freely in places we believe to be private. 
 
Although the athletes in question were embarrassed, the incident didn’t cause permanent damage. However, if these videos publicly proliferate, the stakes may get higher for other riders. 
 
The problem isn’t that the video was recorded. It’s that no system governed access to it. 
 
Just as service providers from restaurants to hotels offer surveillance of customers without abusing their power when no wrong’s been done, ride-sharing companies should do the same. 
 
If dashboard videos aren’t used for protective purposes, they should be controlled by trusted Uber authorities.
 
Drivers are people with their own motivations, for better or worse. The ability to abuse their dashboard footage sets a dangerous precedent for drivers with potentially impure intentions. These limitless possibilities need immediate resolution for the sake of ridesharing users. 
 
The potential abuse of power in a private, vulnerable space can’t continue. Even innocent passengers’ fear of surveillance might change how they behave in Ubers, and it’d make them uncomfortable. Whether Uber silences the audio of dashboard footage or actively takes control of its use, action must be taken.
 
Public outrage about this lapse in trust is positive—it encourages corporations and governments to battle the negative repercussions of our society’s technological advancement. 
 
Anger mobilizes change. In the wake of this Senators scandal, Uber should re-evaluate their privacy policy in the face of ever-growing technology as it threatens rider security. 
 
You should respect your Uber driver—you shouldn’t fear their capacity to make you vulnerable.
 
 

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