Uber Scraps Privacy-Invading Feature After Widespread Criticism

It used to track users’ movements after their ride had ended.

crowdink.com, crowdink.com.au, crowd ink, crowdink, Uber (Image Source: The Independent)
Uber (Image Source: The Independent)

This week Uber will ditch its controversial post-ride tracking feature after receiving heavy criticism from its users. It allowed Uber employees to track the movement of passengers for up to 5 minutes after leaving the car.

Users could disable the feature, but subsequently had to enter pickup and drop-off addresses manually which made the app inefficient.

This didn’t hinder Uber from receiving severe backlash though. Users and privacy advocates in the US accused the feature (and company) of being ‘stalkerish’ and breaching user trust, with many having boycotted the app since the feature was introduced last November.

At the time, Uber had stated on its website that the update “improve[s] pick-ups, drop-offs, customer service, and enhance[s] safety”, though how the feature was accomplishing this was never explicitly explained.

In an interview with Reuters, Uber’s chief security officer Joe Sullivan admitted that the lack of clear information to users regarding these privacy changes was a mistake, blaming it on the company’s “lack of expertise”.

A new update will once again allow users to share location data only while using the app, however it will only be available to iPhone users this week. Android users will have to wait.

This update is the latest in a series of privacy-related controversies and settlements. Just two weeks ago, the company settled U.S. Federal Trade Commission allegations that Uber failed to be transparent about, and failed to provide adequate security for, consumer data.

With Expedia CEO Dara Khosrowshahi taking over as Uber’s new CEO, the company is posed to introduce new developments over the coming months that champion users’ privacy and company transparency.