July 23 (UPI) -- Ride-hailing companies Uber and Lyft have suspended a St. Louis driver who live streamed hundreds of passengers for months without their knowledge.
The live streams revealed personal conversations of passengers on a Twitch web channel and comments made about the conversations and female passengers' bodies -- a format similar to HBO's Taxicab Confessions from the late 1990s and early 2000s.
The driver, Jason Gargac, told the St. Louis Dispatch he doesn't see anything wrong with broadcasting his riders to a web audience.
"I try to capture the natural interactions between myself and the passengers -- what a Lyft and Uber ride actually is," he said.
The revelation, though, has provoked debate about privacy, ethics and its legality -- even though an Uber spokesperson said the practice is not against Missouri law.
"Driver partners are responsible for complying with the law when providing trips, including privacy laws," an Uber spokesman told the Post-Dispatch. "Recording passengers without their consent is illegal in some states, but not Missouri."
Nonetheless, Uber and rival Lyft, who Gargac also drove for, suspended him after the Post-Dispatch first reported the story.
"The troubling behavior in the videos is not in line with our Community Guidelines," a company statement said. "The driver's access to the app has been removed while we evaluate his partnership with Uber."
"The safety and comfort of the Lyft community is our top priority, and we have deactivated this driver," a Lyft statement said.
Gargac's live stream channel was also removed from Twitch.
"In terms of this particular person, we do not comment on Terms of Service violations in regards to specific individuals," Twitch said in a statement to UPI. "In regards to our policies, under our Community Guidelines and Terms of Service, we do not allow people to share content that invades others' privacy. If reported to us by the person whose privacy was invaded, we would take action under our Community Guidelines to remove the content."
Before his channel came down, Gargac said he earned about $3,500 from Twitch users since March. He also said he primarily used the streams, which were archived on his channel for 60 days, for security reasons.
"The live stream 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 said.
Gargac has emphasized that he added a 4-inch square sticker on his rear passenger window that read, "Notice: For security this vehicle is equipped with audio and visual recording devices. Consent given by entering vehicle."
Passengers contacted by the Post-Dispatch said they did not see it.