Privacy Law

Secret passenger audio recordings are now playing in a NY cab; were they obtained legally?

A New York artist who drives a cab is raising some eyebrows and legal questions with his latest art project.

Daniel Wilson secretly recorded his passengers’ conversations and assembled the audio highlights into a 37-minute collage that he played in the back of his cab during New York’s Armory Arts Week, the New York Times reports. Wilson was off duty as he played the recording for passengers he drove to art shows without charge.

Is the recording legal? The city allows conversations to be recorded with the consent of just one party. The issue, the story says, is whether passenger comments made as Wilson stayed silent qualify as conversations under the law. Wilson tells the Times he obtained legal advice from a lawyer with Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts. Wilson was told he could be subject to an injunction if a passenger sued, but he was unlikely to face serious liability.

The Times says the audio includes these comments:

• Fashion observations: “Antlers are so hot right now.”

• Introspection from a bachelor: “I am extremely datable and extremely interesting, but I wouldn’t actually date myself.”

• A comment from a woman who believes her sister is too well-liked: “Kelly’s not miserable and alone. … She has a wonderful husband; she has friends. That’s what’s sick.”

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