Leaked Ottawa Sen­a­tors’ Uber video raises is­sue of cus­tomer pri­vacy in ride-shar­ing ser­vices

StarMetro Toronto - - FRONT PAGE - Henry Stancu BUSI­NESS RE­PORTER

Toronto pri­vacy ex­pert and Beck Taxi con­demn ‘un­eth­i­cal’ record­ing thes­tar.com

Con­fi­dence in pas­sen­ger pri­vacy has taken a hit after video from an Uber cab was posted on­line — for all the world to see and hear — as a group of Ottawa Sen­a­tors play­ers mocked their coach and the per­for­mance of team mem­bers.

The video, recorded Oct. 29 in Ari­zona, shows seven play­ers crammed into the mov­ing car while they col­lec­tively de­ride one of their coaches and crit­i­cize the team’s penalty-killing abil­i­ties.

As much as be­ing a highly em­bar­rass­ing team mo­ment, it is a blow to peer-to-peer ride-shar­ing ser­vices, which aren’t stiffly reg­u­lated, like taxi cab com­pa­nies, when it comes to cus­tomer pri­vacy.

“This is a clear vi­o­la­tion of our terms of ser­vice and we worked vig­or­ously to in­ves­ti­gate this is­sue,” said Rob Khaz­zam, Uber Canada’s general man­ager, via Twit­ter, in ref­er­ence to the Sen­a­tors’ snafu.

“A video was re­leased by the me­dia to­day of sev­eral Uber pas­sen­gers be­ing filmed with­out their con­sent while hav­ing a pri­vate dis­cus­sion dur­ing a trip in Phoenix,” he added, re­fer­ring to the video posted on a Post­media Youtube page.

“Film­ing or record­ing pas­sen­gers with­out their con­sent is to­tally un­ac­cept­able and if re­ported/de­tected we will in­ves­ti­gate and take ac­tion to pre­serve our com­mu­ni­ties’ pri­vacy and in­tegrity. In this spe­cific case, we made ef­forts to have the video taken down,” Khaz­zam said.

And while film­ing pas­sen­gers with­out their knowl­edge is against Uber pol­icy, the Sen­a­tors’ pri­vacy breach comes at a time when driv­ers in ride-shar­ing op­er­a­tions in­stall dash­board cam­eras for their own safety and to dis­prove pas­sen­ger ac­cu­sa­tions.

Cam­eras are re­quired in mu­nic­i­pally reg­u­lated and li­censed taxi cabs, but pro­tec­tions are in place for pas­sen­gers, in­dus­try ex­perts say.

“In ev­ery taxi in the City of Toronto, there’s a re­quire­ment for a cam­era in­stalled in the ve­hi­cle that takes still photos dur­ing trips and it is ac­ti­vated by the open­ing and clos­ing of the doors,” said Kris­tine Hub­bard, op­er­a­tions man­ager with Beck Taxi.

“This is de­signed not only for the safety of pas­sen­gers and driv­ers, but also in a case that they are ac­cused of do­ing some­thing they may, or may not, have done, and those cam­eras are only ac­cessed by Toronto Po­lice Ser­vices (in the event of an in­ves­ti­ga­tion), which an­swers the pri­vacy is­sue ques­tion,” Hub­bard said.

“We have a zero-tol­er­ance pol­icy for any­one putting their own cam­eras in a taxi. We do our own in­spec­tions and if some­one was found to have a cam­era it would be taken out,” Hub­bard added.

She pointed out that there is a sticker on ev­ery taxi warn­ing pas­sen­gers they are be­ing pho­tographed and that only po­lice have ac­cess to down­load images in an in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

“Pri­vacy is all about con­trol, per­sonal con­trol over the use and dis­clo­sure of your per­sonal in­for­ma­tion,” said Ann Cavoukian, for­mer in­for­ma­tion and pri­vacy com­mis­sioner of On­tario, and cur­rently a mem­ber of Ry­er­son Univer­sity’s Pri­vacy and Data An­a­lyt­ics team.

She called the U.S. Uber driver’s ac­tions “out­ra­geous.”

“You have to draw the line where this is a com­pletely un­ac­cept­able prac­tice, un­eth­i­cal and I’m sure there are some grounds to take it to court.

“Cabs and Ubers the­o­ret­i­cally have cams for the se­cu­rity of the driv­ers, but there should be clear no­tice when you get in that there is a cam­era cap­tur­ing ev­ery­thing you are say­ing and do­ing. I don’t think that type of no­tice is avail­able in Uber,” she said.

“What is com­pletely un­ac­cept­able is dis­clos­ing that in­for­ma­tion pub­licly via the in­ter­net. It’s up to Uber’s man­age­ment to lay down the law.”

“... THIS IS A COM­PLETELY UN­AC­CEPT­ABLE PRAC­TICE, UN­ETH­I­CAL.” For­mer pri­vacy com­mis­sioner Ann Cavoukian



Uber is un­der fire after an Ari­zona driver posted on­line an in-car video of seven Ottawa Sen­a­tors play­ers crit­i­ciz­ing a coach and their team. Uber calls the record­ing “to­tally un­ac­cept­able.”


Ann Cavoukian, for­mer in­for­ma­tion and pri­vacy com­mis­sioner, says there should be clear no­tice when you get in a cab or Uber a cam­era is cap­tur­ing ev­ery­thing you are say­ing and do­ing.

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