Lyft wiretapped my phone...

… but I’m guessing I probably signed away any number of rights when I signed up to drive with them. So it maybe wasn’t illegal. And due to the technology involved, it might not have been technically wiretapping.

Here’s what happened. On my way to pick up a Lyft rider, the rider sent me a text message asking how close I was to arriving. Within a couple of seconds there was a reply to the text message, but not from me. The message said (as closely as I can recall), “Hello from Lyft. Please do not send text messages to our drivers when they are on the road driving. Thank you.”

And my first thought was, hey that’s pretty cool, Lyft has got my back and will step in to protect me from hassles and from feeling pressured to do dangerous things like texting while still driving.

And my second thought was, HOW did they do this? What else might they be monitoring? Do they have the right to intercept all incoming calls or texts on MY phone (I own it and pay for the phone service)? Can they only do this while I am logged in as a driver on their app? What if someone else texts me (my favorite hooker or coke dealer, for example) while I’m signed in? They certainly wouldn’t know that I was “on duty” so to speak, and would have an expectation of privacy.

My next thoughts were related to the second. What are the nuts and bolts of how it works? Perhaps the passenger Lyft app on his phone and mine on my phone talk directly to each other, something I hadn’t considered before. All I know for sure is that the job requires me to have a smart phone with phone and data services both. Is intercepting a text message a crime like intercepting a phone call? Is it even intercepting it at all? It seems very possible that the message is generated, sent via and received by their own software, and that doesn’t seem like an “interception.”

Can any of you shed light on how this tech works?

I would also like to recruit a volunteer for a little experimenting. I would like to arrange for someone without the Lyft rider software on their phone to text me under essentially the same circumstances of the message that was sent today. If Lyft doesn’t intervene to try stopping the testing, that suggests that our exchanges are handled by their software rather than the normal channels that a normal phone would use.

Any volunteers? This is not going to happen tonight as I’m already done driving, but probably some evening later this week.

Go into the app settings for Lyft and you’ll see it has permission to:

  • directly call phone numbers / read phone status and identity
  • receive text messages (SMS) / send SMS messages

(as well as a ton of other stuff, naturally)

Those are the permissions you agree to when you download the app, so I don’t think you have much of a right to privacy.

I have a Lyft app, but could certainly stay signed out of it to text you. After all, I think that would still qualify as an expectation of privacy on my part if I’m just texting my friend who happens to be on a Lyft shift and I’m not asking for a ride or anything. PM me if you want.

Seems weird the person was texting you for an ETA anyway, since the app tracks your car the second you accept the pickup. Not only does it update the ETA continually, the rider can see exactly where your car is on the map, and even what direction your car is facing. I can see when a driver does a U-turn to pick me up. Before requesting a Lyft, I can see how many Lyft cars are in my area, little car symbols driving around on the app map.

I think lyft already knows your favorite hooker/coke dealers and puts them on a white list.

The guy did not understand the app at all. He wanted to pay me for the ride. It might even be that someone else ordered the ride for him.

I suspected this might be the case. But what about someone calling or texting me who knows nothing about me working for Lyft? Are their calls to me monitored? I don’t think I can give up their rights by agreeing to give up mine.

I believe it’s only monitoring the calls/messages that go through your exchange-routed number (i.e. that’s used for contact between rider and driver without revealing either’s true personal phone number). But who really knows for sure what they’re doing except the company?

I’m leaning towards the text message went from the rider’s phone to Lyft to you. He didn’t text you directly, Lyft forwarded the message to you.

I’d worry less about them reading text messages and more about what you’ll do when someone you pick up pukes in the back seat of your new car. Or gets in with grease on their shoes. Or tears the upholstery. Is any of that covered?

Vomit is, yeah. I heard that at least with Uber they charge ~$200 to the rider so they can reimburse the driver for professional cleaning if/when that happens.

I am greatly saddened by the fact there is a huge amount of spying or snooping of people whenever they use their phones and any device that connects to the Internet.

Until recently, I never had any idea that almost every phone conversation and all Internet usage is actively monitored and recorded by most governments.

The following is a link to a news site that reports a story about how the US government is actively spying on most every US citizen’s usage of phone calls and Internet usage. I think it is really essential to do anything possible to avoid becoming the victims of that spying.

The following link is to a news story that is often referred to as the NSA Spying Scandal:

I hope to have more to say about how to protect yourself from this kind of spying. At the present, I just don’t know a good way to explain how dangerous it is for any government to actively spy on all its citizens - even if they have no evidence the citizens are guilty of any crimes.

I hope to have more to say about this shortly. But I can’t promise anything.

Charlie, you wouldn’t happen to be friends with this guy, on Facebook would you?

FYI, Lyft passengers and drivers use the exact same app. As a drive, I kind of expect Lyft to have pretty thorough access to my phone, as it’s absolutely vital to that relationship. But anyone who uses Lyft as a passenger is granting the exact same rights as I do, and probably has no idea that they’re allowing Lyft to not only read text messages and call information, but to use their passengers phones to send them.

Uber has one app for drivers and another for passengers, and in theory can differentiate between them regarding what rights they have. But as far as I can see, they don’t.

Both Uber and Lyft have the right to take pictures and videos using your phone for some bizarre reason.

I don’t know that I can trust you any more, Charlie. Over a year ago, you said you were going to review Pizza Hut’s new pizza and you never did.. Personally, I cried a little at the lack of a review.

Now you promise to talk about wiretapping and privacy issues?? I don’t know that I’ll ever be able to open my heart and trust again. :frowning:

Trust Uber and Lyft less. They’re both secretly taking pictures of you and everything you see.

Where did you read this?

Look it up in his file.

There’s a stain on your shirt collar. You’d better change it.


Several apps have access to your camera (or rather, ask for it) like Facebook’s Messenger. So you can touch the “take a photo” button and take a photo & send it without leaving the app. Otherwise you have to close the app, go to the camera, take a photo, close the camera, open the app, use the app’s photo finder, choose your pic and send.

I’ve never seen either company’s app but I’m guessing there is a “take a photo and send it” button so you can quickly take a photo of something happening on your ride and send it to the company, in one very quick motion.

As far as I know, the apps can’t randomly take photos or videos from your phone without input from you. I could be wrong, but I’m pretty sure there’d be quite an uproar if it did.

People saw this in the user agreement of the Facebook Messenger app and freaked the fuck out. But it didn’t give anyone access to take naked pics of you or anything. It just gives people the ability to quickly snap and send a pic.

I have driven for Lyft and Uber.

The text message was not sent by your phone.

Both platforms use a relay service to isolate the drivers and riders. The number you send/receive rider texts to/from is not the rider’s real phone number. Likewise, the rider communicates through the same relay system. The relay system sent the text messages, not your phone.