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Would Uber having an audio recording of your ride make you feel safer or creeped out?
Uber plans to give drivers and passengers the option to record audio of their rides, and will first test the feature in Mexico and Brazil. Uber has not confirmed plans for a U.S. expansion, but says it’s considering testing the feature in other countries, depending on what happens in Latin America.
The news comes via the Washington Post, which viewed internal communications concerning the test. Uber actually announced the program in Brazil in November, with a blog post written in Portuguese. It has confirmed the test and some of the details of the program to the Post and Mashable.
Drivers or passengers can record trips through the Safety Toolkit before or during a ride. At the end of the trip, they’ll be asked if everything was OK, or if there were any problems. They have the option to submit the audio recording to Uber customer service, or they can do nothing. But the recording won’t get deleted — it will live in trip history, so that users can report it later if they wish.
Drivers and riders can’t listen to recordings after they’re made. Their only option is to send it to Uber if an incident occurred.
The test brings up a couple issues, namely around privacy. Uber says that recordings will live on users’ devices, and that they will be encrypted by Uber. However, a trove of indefinitely stored audio doesn’t inspire confidence given how other tech companies have treated audio data in the past.
The next issue regards consent. State law differs around the policy of “two party consent,” in which everyone being recorded has to agree to it. The Post reports that if a driver or passenger initiates recording, the app won’t explicitly notify the other. Instead, blanket permission statements will serve as consent.
The move is part of the company’s larger efforts to improve safety in the wake of troubling reports of violence and sexual assault. Uber introduced pin-matching, which is supposed to ensure that riders get into the correct vehicle. (A woman was murdered earlier this year after she mistook a car for her Uber). It also introduced the ability to text 911 via the app — handy if you don’t feel comfortable calling. And in 2018, Uber introduced a slate of other safety features in the Safety Toolkit.
Lawmakers recently blasted Uber (and Lyft) for skipping out on a congressional hearing meant to address safety practices in ride sharing. Additionally, on Tuesday, the National Transportation Board implicated Uber’s “inadequate safety culture” in the death of a pedestrian by an Uber autonomous vehicle.