Uber has launched a new feature – the company will audio record rides to ensure the safety of both passengers and drivers. The company will be first tested in Mexico and Brazil before a launch in the US.
The news was reported by the Washington Post and later confirmed by the company itself.
Both drivers and passengers will be given some kind of control over how the app functions. Drivers will be able to automatically switch on recording for all rides, while passengers will be able to activate it in the Uber app's Safety Toolkit feature before they start a ride.
Uber's feature may raise privacy concerns about how these recordings are stored and used, yet, for some riders, it will be a welcome step. Especially, since it may be used as proof in case crimes are committed by the driver or the passenger during the ride. However, the purpose of the recording is discretion. Proofs will only be available if the person does not know that he/she is being recorded during the ride. This is the reason that Uber will not issue a warning when the recording starts. It will, however, issue a general warning and prompt users to grant microphone access.
The recordings will be encrypted and not available to riders or passengers. The rollout of the feature will also be dependent on local laws and regulations. Another concern will be how the recording will be done when there are multiple passengers in the car.
Uber has had a history of issues including multiple sexual assault cases against its drivers. More than 30 of its drivers have been convicted for a range of crimes including sexual assault and false imprisonment.
Another complication will be the consent of passengers who are asleep or passed out in the cab.
It remains to be seen how this feature pans out, despite these concerns.