Uber to allow the riders and drivers record rides for better safety

Uber has been under the spotlight for quite some time regarding safety and security issues. The company has decided to test a new feature in an attempt to improve the safety of the cab riders. This effort is a bit controversial because it violates privacy, but Uber has been under a lot of pressure when it comes to safety and security. However, this new feature will help in reporting safety incidents.

Safety is a big issue and a struggle for the company because, in the past, they have witnessed incidents like robberies (in Latin America) where drivers accepted cash payments and were robbed. Other crimes include sexual assault and in rape in the United States. This new feature will be tested in Brazil and Mexico before it comes to the United States.

This feature can be set up automatically by the drivers to record all rides, and the passengers have to activate the feature through the app’s safety Toolkit before they get into an Uber. The details of how it is going to work are unclear. Do you have to turn on the feature before every ride or if it stays on when you enable it once; is still not clear. There will be no notification as to when the recording starts, at least at the beginning, because Uber does say that later they will update the feature where the riders will get a warning and pop-ups asking permission for to access the microphone. Passengers can immediately submit the video if they wish to report an issue to the company; otherwise, these recordings will be saved for later use, in case riders want to report any issue later.

These recordings are encrypted so neither the driver nor the rider can access these files. Mexico and Brazil might give the law enforcement access to these audio recordings if they request for them. The announcement was made on 6th November in Sao Paulo. Uber having consistently claimed that safety is its ‘top priority’ hasn’t released the safety transparency report yet. The report is supposed to include all the complaints about sexual assault and other incidents that have taken place in past. They were supposed to release this report in May of 2018, but they still haven’t, and 2019 is almost coming to an end. When CNN dug into the situation, they found that over 103 Uber drivers are guilty of sexual assault or harassing the passengers in the US.

Uber is reluctant in releasing this report because the negative publicity it will receive after these records are made available to the public. They fear the media will address the situation with negativity which will ultimately affect their reputation. Uber took steps to increase the safety measures in 2018 after it was criticized by CNN. They signed a partnership with RapidSOS. It is a company that helps in sending the rider’s location and other information to the police. The rider can do this by pressing the emergency button, which will be there in the Uber app. They also stated they would do annual background checks on the drivers. It has also come into light that they plan to get rid of a certain policy that forced people with sexual assault complaints to sign Non-disclosure agreements to settle the issue against the drivers.

This new feature to record audio does raise issues related to privacy. Many states in the US prevent wiretapping without the consent of individuals involved. The Uber company has had a history of sexual harassment complaints, which prompted the company to fire 20 employees.

Didi China’s ride-hailing company introduced this feature after 2 women were murdered within four months. Uber decided to test the same feature for its cabs although it is still a question mark as to whether this new feature will be received well by the US because there are laws in place that restrict recording without consent in many states.

We know that Uber has dash cams and other recording devices in the car, but the company restricts the driver from showcasing the image or the footage of the rider. Uber further explains on its website that drivers will have to inform the passengers about the recording devices in their cars and acquire their consent before using these devices. Moreover, they should check with the local regulations if such rules apply to the citizens of that state or city.

Uber has a special investigations unit where they had hired a consultant outside the company to assess the risks and handles all the severe sexual assault cases. CNN discovered a 26-page memo cultivated by the outside consultant; the memo clearly stated that Uber handled 1200 cases every week. The entire unit is apparently underpaid, and overworked. Uber claims that it will take some serious actions and focus on safety in 2019.

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