Livestream Bait and Twitch: Are You Part of Someone Else’s Reality Show?

Every day, millions of people are being unwittingly recorded by others. Every person you see walking down the street likely has a means to record your image and transmit it to billions of people at a whim. But, would you have ever expected that your Lyft or Uber ride was being broadcast across the globe for others’ entertainment? For some passengers in St. Louis, this was their reality.

Whether it be Instagram, YouTube, Twitch, Snapchat or something else, the rise of content-sharing platforms are driving a surge in the number of content creators. And, in an ever-growing search for new content, creators are turning to the public, literally, for ideas.

It was recently reported that a St. Louis Uber and Lyft driver has been recording his passengers and livestreaming their rides on Twitch—the video-sharing platform often used to share recordings of video games. The driver streamed video of scores of his passengers to eager viewers who then commented on the passengers’conversations and acts.

The legality of the driver’s recordings is unclear. All of the driver’s recordings happened in his own vehicle. As Uber and Lyft often make clear, they consider their drivers independent contractors, not employees. In addition, the driver reportedly had a sign on his vehicle advising passengers that they were being recorded—though there did not appear to be any mention that the recordings were being streamed to the internet.

While it is true that Missouri is considered a single consent jurisdiction, the single/dual consent distinction is normally an issue in wiretapping statutes, but in this case, the driver was not intercepting electronic communications; rather, he was creating his own recordings. If he was not intercepting communications, wiretapping statutes generally would not apply.

Uber and Lyft have both removed the driver from their services, citing a violation of community guidelines for drivers. It is not clear, however, if either company’s policies contemplate or address livestreaming.

As video and other recording tools become more powerful, and, as an increasing number of people search for content to share with others, the public is going to have to increasingly deal with the possibility that interactions that they once considered to be private may be shared with others. Legislators, companies and constituents are going to have to work closely with each other to establish the meaning of privacy in a world where everyone not only has a camera and a high-speed internet connection but possibly considers it acceptable to share their lives—and those of the people they interact with—with as many other people as possible.

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