With reports of sexual assault and rape by Uber drivers on the rise in the United States, the ride-sharing app has found itself under a microscope as they attempt to ensure the safety of riders (and drivers).
As a measure to make users feel safer, Uber announced at an event in São Paulo on November 6, plans to roll out a new feature that will allow riders and drivers to record audio during a trip.
In the words of CNN Business, “With the new feature, Uber will, in effect, be putting riders in the position of choosing between privacy and security for a company that has a spotty track record with both.”
Here’s how it works in brief: After a ride is completed, riders/drivers will have the option to share the encrypted audio from their trip with Uber. The audio can then be be used for investigating an incident. It can also be shared with law enforcement if requested.
An Uber spokesperson reportedly told CNN, that although the audio feature has the potential to expand to the US; it would be first be tested in Brazil and Mexico beginning in December.
While Uber allows drivers use video recording devices, the company prohibits broadcasting a person’s image, audio, or video recording due to local privacy laws.
This may pose as a setback for the new audio feature.
“Laws in the United States around consent to being recorded can vary from state to state, but we hope to be able to make this available nationally,” an Uber executive wrote in an email obtained by The Washington Post.
The new safety feature comes weeks before Uber’s year-end deadline for releasing data on safety incidents in the US.
Uber reportedly first pledged to release the safety transparency report, which will include data on sexual assaults and other safety incidents claims, back in May 2018.
It is said that the report was promised after a CNN investigation found at least 103 Uber drivers in the US had been accused of sexually assaulting or abusing their passengers in the previous four years.
Since 2018, Uber has created an emergency button in the Uber app and revamped its background check policy.