Uber backs down on post-trip tracking as part of renewed privacy efforts

29 Aug 2017

Uber app interface. Image: Syafiq Adnan/Shutterstock

The ride-sharing app announces a significant policy change.

Fresh from the appointment of former Expedia head Dara Khosrowshahi as the new CEO, Uber is shelving a feature from its app that attracted a lot of criticism from users, according to Reuters.

The company has a historically poor reputation in terms of user privacy, and Uber’s chief security officer, Joe Sullivan, is working with a large team to strengthen the company protocols.

The feature in question allowed the app to track users for up to five minutes after the conclusion of a trip, with Uber’s logic being that it needed the data to offer the most precise transportation service on the market.

‘Lack of expertise’

Rather than letting users choose for their data to be collected only while using the app, Uber had forced them to pick between the ‘always’ or ‘never’ options after updating in November 2016.

Many users felt that this took their agency as individuals away, effectively making them hand over this data without the option to decide where or when this would be done.

Sullivan explained that Uber suffered from a “lack of expertise” in the area of privacy and customer data, and there had not been enough transparency from the company regarding why this data was, in its view, required from their users.

A rough ride for Uber

This change comes during a turbulent time for the company, following the departure of former CEO Travis Kalanick. His leaving the company came in the wake of a litany of controversies, including a damning testimony around the allegedly sexist workplace culture from former engineer Susan Fowler in February 2017.

This incident is another example demonstrating the clear requirements that your average user is now looking for in the apps they use every day.

With public literacy in the area of online privacy increasing, the onus is on companies to gain the trust of users in terms of their data and its security.

Uber app interface. Image: Syafiq Adnan/Shutterstock

Ellen Tannam was a journalist with Silicon Republic, covering all manner of business and tech subjects