A new surveillance feature on the Uber app now tracks your location – or, more precisely, your device’s location – up to 5 minutes after your ride is over and the driver closes the trip and you close the app.
Uber says that the purpose is to “improve pickups, drop-offs, customer service, and to enhance safety.”
So what are the privacy issues around this new feature? Though the function itself is new, Uber actually announced it a year ago. At the time, there was a Federal Trade Commission (FTC) complaint against the announcement’s intent, but that didn’t go anywhere.
As it stands, Uber will now be able to track your location from the time you order a car until five minutes after the ride is over. But the good part is, it asks for your permission to do this.
So if you’d rather not have your location tracked after your ride, you can either disallow the function or simply turn your location services off in your settings.
That does help, but many Uber users say that it is an unnecessary functionality and that it doesn’t help them personally. Uber’s argument is sound as far as pre-ride tracking is concerned, but why would they want to know what I’m up to after the ride? And how does tracking my location after the ride help “enhance safety” or “improve customer service”?
That’s what I don’t understand. Uber claims that it helps them identify whether or not the customer has been dropped at the right destination, such as the correct side of the street. But what if I change my mind and go across the street to grab a quick coffee before my business meeting? Does Uber automatically assume that the driver made a mistake? How does that even work?
Uber is not under any kind of suspicion surrounding what they do with this data, mind you. The issue is one of customers choosing privacy over convenience as far as they’re concerned. In fact, in January Uber signed an agreement with the Attorney General’s office in New York that would require Uber to encrypt their users’ location data and apply multi-factor authentication to keep it safe from unauthorized access.
So, while Uber tracking your location after the ride might not make sense to us, it’s only as much cause for concern as what Amazon might do with your credit card details after you’re done ordering, for example.
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