Car-hailing app DiDi seeks views on taping all rides after passenger slain

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A taxi driver is reflected in a side mirror as he uses the Didi Chuxing car-hailing application in Beijing, China. Photo: Reuters/Jason Lee

Car-hailing app DiDi Chuxing says it will seek views from riders and drivers for its proposal to record conversations during all trips booked via its platform, as an added safety precaution after a female passenger was raped and murdered by a DiDi driver, a horrific crime that has rattled China.

To protect the privacy of drivers and passengers, Didi has indicated that recordings would be encrypted and stored only on its own servers, and would be deleted automatically after 72 hours.

The incident occurred around midnight on May 5 in Zhengzhou, capital of central Henan province, when a young stewardess hailed a car on DiDi for a ride to the city train station. The flight attendant went missing and was found dead on a barren slope in a suburb a few days later, believed raped, murdered and dumped by her DiDi driver.

DiDi was accused of gross negligence after it was revealed that the ride-sharing app failed to verify the identity of the driver – the murderer reportedly used his father’s DiDi account. The company was also seen as sluggish in ascertaining the last known location of the victim after her family and friends contacted police.

There were more claims of alleged inaction by the carpooling group, once hailed as China’s Uber, after other riders complained about sexual harassment, indecent assaults and other misbehavior by its “certified” drivers. This has led to concern that the Beijing-based company has not properly scrutinized its army of drivers, some of whom are said to have criminal records.

On Wednesday DiDi announced a slew of remedies. On top of the proposal to take audio records of all futures rides, the company has enhanced the app’s location and real-time tracking and emergency SOS call functions.

By the end of May, DiDi will also link its one-tap emergency help function directly to the nation’s emergency telephone number (110) and make its in-app facial scan mandatory for all drives across all of its hailing and booking services and categories to verify a driver’s identity.

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