Uber is investigating a Toronto driver who has been filming passengers on a dashboard GoPro camera, sometimes without initially making it clear that the camera was taping.
The investigation was launched after Holly Jones, a 35-year-old makeup artist, reported that she was filmed without her consent and asked personal questions, including her personal finances, in a Tuesday night drive.
“I felt completely violated,” Jones said. “There are other people he’s been videotaping, and other people don’t understand that when they’re sharing their ideas, this guy is filming.”
The driver, Marcin Migdal, who confirmed the investigation, has been on the road for about a week. He denies that he asked Jones about her finances but says he was completely within his rights to record passengers. So far he has 13 passengers on tape, he says. In fact, he was interviewing passengers for a web series pilot he plans to pitch called “The Uber Experiment.”
“The idea, after talking with a few people, was maybe there was a way to make positive press for Uber,” Migdal told Vv Magazine, referencing France’s recent decision to ban Uber.
“These people I’m picking up, they’re intelligent people and every single person only had good things to say. They had ideas of how to make Uber better. It was research for Uber done by the riders themselves.”
However, Migdal offered a slew of other explanations for the GoPro camera. He alleged it was for the safety of his car (he drives a BMW). He says was interviewing entrepreneurs about their businesses. He also says his time as an Uber driver was undercover research for an article he hopes to write for his website, TebTalks, an online source for entrepreneurs.
“I figured I can be the guinea pig and write a good article about it,” he said.
On Friday, Uber responded to the incident over email.
“We take allegations of this nature very seriously and have spoken to both the rider and driver to help resolve the matter. Uber takes many steps to ensure both rider and driver safety as well as privacy on the platform,” wrote Susie Heath, a spokesperson for Uber Canada.
Uber has not responded to our questions about the nature of the investigation or whether Migdal will continue to be allowed to drive and record passengers. (We will update this story if they do.)
The incident began after Holly Jones called an UberX on Tuesday evening. She’d had a long day at work and wasn’t in the mood for talking. When she stepped in the car, Migdal told Jones about the pilot.
“He said I’m doing this TV show about people coming in Uber cars and talking about their entrepreneurial ideas and experiences, and I said that’s fine.”
At that point, the driver did not explicitly tell Jones that the dashboard camera was recording. It wasn’t until later in the drive, about two blocks from her home, that Jones noticed the blinking light.
“I noticed a GoPro on his dashboard and I said, ‘Hey, is that a GoPro?’ He said ‘Yes, that’s a GoPro,’ and he said, ‘Yeah, I said from the start that I was recording you.’
“I said, ‘No, you didn’t, and you need to pull over and I need you to erase that.’” The driver complied, and she watched him delete the video.
Initially, when Migdal was asked if he told Jones he was recording, he said: “I did tell her, as soon as she walked in. I said you’re on the Uber Experiment, we’re filming a web series which is going to be a possible pilot in California.”
Later in the interview, Migdal admitted that he was not explicitly clear that Jones was being taped: “I did not make it super clear that I was recording. I did not say, by the way, we are recording your video and audio right now. I did not say that at the beginning of our conversation.”
He understands why that could upset a passenger.
“Now I see a problem with that, yes. And had I known that this would ever happen, not only would we have the details saying this is the Uber Experiment … now we would have a sticker saying, ‘You are being recorded on video and audio.’”
Migdal says the 13 other passengers he recorded have consented to being filmed. However, no release forms were signed; he says he took passengers’ contacts and planned to follow-up later.
At the moment, it’s unclear whether Migdal will continue to record UberX passengers in Toronto for his experiment. He said he’s still waiting on a reply from Uber.
“If Uber is fine with me recording this, then yes. I will probably end up getting actual, real sponsorships … and turn it more into a Cash Cab concept, so it’s easier for people with the recording device.”
But if Uber isn’t cool with it?
“Then concept gets scrapped. This was just an experiment anyway. I only lost, what, a day driving and recording? It was just an unfortunate incident that occurred. For me it was just to write an article about Uber. I’ve gotten what I wanted.”
Were you filmed in Marcin Migdal’s UberX? Reach out to us in the comments below or at @ViewtheVibe.