Information Privacy-Are You Really Secure?

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Information privacy has been an issue since the dawn of internet companies. Some are open about what they do and do not do, other’s are not. In this era of being one click away from services that would take hours to set up, I look at one of the biggest online companies and what they make private for their users: Uber.

Uber’s privacy policy is actually very easy to find. It is the top three searches on any standard search engine and takes any curious onlooker right to where they need to be. For this post I will focus on the riders’ privacy policy, as there is a separate one for divers’. The latter will obviously much more intense and open since it is the companies employees so I will take a look at how they handle their customers’ information.

The policy concerns all aspects of Uber, including their new food delivery service. They are clear that they can be charged if are caught doing anything else not mentioned in the policy and give locations and contacts for their headquarters in the United States, Europe, and for some reason only Argentina (Uber, 2018 (updated)). While they collect background checks on any potential drivers, if you use Uber they spell out in the policy they collect everything in your user profile, email, phone, feedback, and even banking and Social Security information when money transactions go through (Uber, 2018 (updated)). The biggest thing, however, is what a user’s history and location. Uber is able to look at the previous services someone has ordered and even keep their location tracked five minutes after they get out (Uber, 2018 (updated)). This feature can be turned off but tragically a user is going to have take agonizing time to put in the address they want to be picked up/dropped off MANUALLY. So, Uber recommends not to, to save you the hard labor.

Not surprisingly, many people took notice and not kindly to this newest update, as this rule was applied as recent as the late 2000s. People of the Electronic Privacy Information Center filed a lawsuit against Uber in 2015 stating that this new rule is unethical and does not follow the FCC standards (CBS News, 2016). The FCC states that communication companies cannot save a recipient’s information like that, but in a smartphone era, those same rules don’t apply anymore (CBS News, 2016). They have yet to start an investigation.

Even though the only company that can control Uber is not taking action, the controversial new policy took its toll on the driving service. That’s why as of 2017, Uber lightened it significantly to provide a much more transparent lense for a rider (Conger, 2017). The company will no longer track as many people once they leave their ride (including police enforcement, opposing journalists, and LYFT users), as well as provide an option to turn off this feature on the app, forced to type in so many numbers for an address (Conger, 2017). This update can be seen in the privacy policy I described earlier, being much clearer in what they are doing. They still take and store almost all of your info from your phone, but now they tell you about it.

In a as non-biased as I can be point of view, I see how there could be an advantage to all this tracking. Companies rely on demographic data. They want to know who they’re servicing and how they can adjust their service to be better for the types of people. As for the location tracking, I can see it as a way to where people are dropped off the most and plan their drivers accordingly, heavier in more populated areas, lighter in others, etc…

However, the disadvantage is a company is tracking where you are for five minutes after you leave. And considering they were doing this substantially on opposing businesses. people who disagreed with them, and literal cops, the possibilities for shady stuff to go down in the San Fran headquarters is limitless. I’ll be honest, I never liked Uber. It creeps me out and at least Lyft started much more upfront then Uber did. So while I see why they could want to track (or what they could argue in court), the disadvantage outweighs the advantage by a lot.

 

Sources

Uber (2018)(updated). Rider Privacy Policy from https://privacy.uber.com/policy/

Kate Conger (2017). Uber is Getting a New Privacy Policy from https://gizmodo.com/uber-is-getting-a-new-privacy-policy-1818620713

CBS News (2016). Uber’s new tracking policy: An Improvement or just “invasive?” from https://www.cbsnews.com/news/uber-location-track-riders-five-minutes-after-ride-privacy-concerns/

 

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