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Big Brother In The Back Seat? Interior Cameras In Rideshare Vehicles Prompt Privacy Questions

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- If you've ever taken a rideshare, you may have noticed a camera pointing at you during your trip.

Companies say they encourage them for safety reasons, but what rights do riders have when in the back seat?

A brutal attack in Washington, D.C., rocked the rideshare world in March, a murder that might still be unsolved were it not for cameras that captured video inside driver Mohammad Anwar's Uber.

"That's why I'm fully loaded with cameras all over the vehicle," New York City Uber driver John Telusma said.

He isn't playing around when it comes to safety for his passengers and himself.

"We have a camera that records the front of the vehicle, we have a camera that records in the cabin, and then we have a camera that records what's happening in the back of the vehicle," Telusma said.

"So this has to make you feel a lot safer as a driver," CBS2's Jessica Moore said.

"It kinda does," Telusma said.

Lyft driver Randal Paster agrees.

"You don't know these people from a hole in the wall," he said. "It's security. It's safety."

The Taxi and Limousine Commission says these days, riders should assume they're being recorded, but what right do you have as a passenger to know whether you're being filmed before you decide to get into the back seat of a ride share?

The TLC requires drivers to post stickers warning "You will be recorded" on vehicle windows, and apps like Uber and Lyft have started informing riders they'll be recorded on the confirmation screen before their ride arrives.

"Some passengers say, how do I know that my private conversations aren't going to end up on social media?" Moore asked.

"The footage deletes after a period of time," Telusma said.

Both Uber and Lyft tell CBS2 they encourage drivers to install cameras for everyone's safety. Neither company has access to driver videos, which are required to be deleted within a week unless an emergency justifies storing the video for future use.

"That does not mean if there's a private conversation that somebody wants to make viral, go viral on TikTok or some other social media platform that they can use that for commercial purposes," attorney Peter Gleason said.

So what do riders think of Big Brother in the back seat?

"My feeling is if you're not doing anything wrong, you have nothing to worry about," one person said.

"No, I think a person should give consent. You should ask for their permission before you start recording them," Queens resident Malanee Cann said.

"You've even actually caught crimes in progress with these cameras?" Moore asked Telusma.

"Yes indeed, and I try to forward all the footage to law enforcement so it kind of, I feel like Batman driving around. And then you get to like, you see something, say something? I got video," Telusma said.

Drivers are responsible to pay for and maintain their own cameras.

Any riders who are uncomfortable being recorded are encouraged to find another ride, if they can.


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