BOSTON — Uber wants to hear what goes on inside their rides.
According to the company, they are looking to make audio recordings as a part of rideshares to help improve security for both the passenger and the driver.
Even if you've never hailed a rideshare before, you've certainly heard about it on the news. There are enough stories out there detailing instances of sexual assault and physical attacks on both the driver and the passenger.
Danny Fahey says he's been driving for Uber for three years now.
"Pay the bills and [in] some ways you get out of the house and get to chat with people," said Fahey.
Fahey says he's heard stories about what could happen on some rides and says he thinks the audio recordings could be beneficial.
"It seems like more things happen late at night," said Fahey. "I think it would be a benefit in case there are any discrepancies that come up."
Uber has struggled with safety issues and faced accusations that some of its drivers have assaulted and raped passengers.
The San Francisco-based company’s drivers also have been victims of attacks. In both Brazil and Mexico, Uber allows riders to pay with cash, which increases the risk of incidents. In Brazil, drivers have been robbed and have suffered violent, fatal attacks while using the Uber platform, the company said in a federal filing.
It also has been hit with litigation alleging that its hiring process and background checks are inadequate. Uber does not conduct fingerprint-based background checks, which traditional taxi companies generally perform before hiring drivers.
Regular drivers seem to be okay with the idea.
"I don't see nothing wrong," said one driver. "Every time I take [a ride] everything is okay."
However, in Massachusetts that move could be implicated by the state's two-party consent laws.
"When someone is being audio recorded, if that recording is secretive, meaning it is a hidden recording, then that is illegal," said Robert Siciliano, a Security Analyst with ETFMG.
Siciliano says passengers would only have to read the sign that says there is a recording and then get into the vehicle to show consent.
"If the recipient of the ride does not want to be recorded they simply exit the vehicle," said Siciliano.
The feature will allow customers to opt into recording all or select trips. Recordings will be encrypted to protect privacy, and users can later share the recording with Uber, which will have an encryption key, if they want to report a problem.
The ride-hailing company plans to pilot the feature in cities in Brazil and Mexico in December. It eventually hopes to launch it in other markets including the United States, although it has no timeline for possible expansion.
Uber plans to release a safety report this year which provides data on reports of sexual assaults and other safety incidents that occurred in the United States.
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