The Uber Driver Wiretap Saga in Australia

(Preet) #1

We all know that a dash cam is an important part of the Uber driver's arsenal for safety and security. It is used to record rides and assure the driver that no false accusations can be made against them, as well as be used in evidence when dealing with vomiting issues or violence in the car. However, legally, a driver can only record video, they cannot record audio, and that requires the passenger's knowledge and agreement. The same goes for audiotapes, which are less conspicuous than a dash cam but are voice specific and as such, it is illegal to use one unless the passenger is fully aware and allows the device to operate during the ride.

This was the case when an Uber driver recorded the speakerphone conversation that was held between Today host Karl Stefanovic, his brother Peter Stefanovic and Peter's wife

The Uber driver sold his excellent memory, his "knowledge" to "New Idea" for $50,000, which he denied was from the use of an audio tape he was testing out in the car after recently purchasing it, but all based on his excellent memory. Even so, a person that gets into a car for a ride does not expect that their conversations will be used, in detail, for public knowledge.

The details of Karl and Peter Stefanovic's secret 45-minute Uber phone call was made public and included an attack on colleagues such as Georgie Gardner, Richard Wilkins, and Mark Burrows. According to the Uber driver, Karl, who reportedly earns $2 million a year told his brother of his frustrations with his new Today co-host Gardner, who he claims is "sitting on the fence" and not having provided enough opinion during the cast. He went on to vent out his anger with channel Nine bosses and explaining that they had no idea about the ratings and that other colleagues such as Richard Wilkins were "keeping all the entertainment contacts close to his chest, monopolizing them."

If such a recording did exist, and if the police get hold of a copy, then the driver will be in a lot of trouble. Until then, there is only speculation, but also a lot of media coverage that damages Uber's already tarnished image even more. Will Barsby, an attorney at Shine lawyers, stated that "There's potential civil liability for breach of privacy from individuals and potential penalty for federal or state-based breaches with potential criminal sanctions. In this situation, it's covered by the invasion of privacy or surveillance devices legislation in the applicable states. The Federal Telecommunications Act of 1979 covers recording. So, if I'm on the phone with you now and press record without asking your permission, that's illegal. In Stefanovic's case, the Uber driver recorded it using his device, so it's not covered by the Telecommunications Act because he wasn't a party to that conversation." However, this is not the case in NSW, where the Surveillance Devices Act 2007 states that it is illegal to use a "listening device to overhear, record, monitor or listen to a private conversation to which the person is not a party." It also goes on to state that you "must not publish, or communicate to any person, a private conversation or a record of the carrying on of an activity, or a report of a private conversation or carrying on of an activity, that has come to the person's knowledge as a direct or indirect result of the use of a listening device".

According to the Uber driver, he didn't have a dash cam, not a recording device, and that everything he heard he remembered. This possibly means that his brain could constitute a recording device in this instance.

In this case, Uber has definitely got a right to react the way it did, after all, Uber does not want its customers to shy away from its service due to some driver's "magnificent memory" even if it was or was not aided by a recording instrument.

Uber stated "Following receipt of the report, we immediately removed the driver's access to the app so that we can properly investigate the complaint. The nature of this complaint is unacceptable to Uber and, if valid, would be a clear violation of our Community Guidelines."




(Ian) #2

I don’t care if the driver recorded with a machine or remembered the conversation, the fact that he sold the information is deplorable and if I were a passenger in Australia I would go over to Ola. Uber should stipulate in their drivers contract that if a driver even speaks to another person about the contents of a discussion between a pax and another person in the cab or over the phone during the ride, that driver can be prosecuted for damages, as well a fired.

(Steve Mann) #3

Its not an issue of recording, its an issue of telling. I think that any one who is low enough (lowlife) to repeat conversations in their car should be banned from during for rideshare for life.