LONDON Uber has introduced a new feature that allows the app to gather users’ location data for up to 5 minutes after a ride has ended.
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Prior to this latest update, Uber only collected location information during a passenger’s trip and only while the app was running in the foreground. No data was collected after the drop-off.
However, the company now intends to collect location information for the five minute period following the ride. And unless the user opts out Uber asks customers to always share their location even when they aren’t using the service.
Note to #Uber users. Manually turn off tracking if you want privacy. Not sure Y @Uber needs to track all the time. https://t.co/Ao0MVC9iFo
MBOZE (@MBOZE) December 4, 2016
This new capability would technically allow the app to pinpoint users’ precise location as long as the app is running in the background. However, the ride-hailing company claims it would only utilize this function to improve its services, according to TechCrunch.
Uber further claims that the new function will enhance customer safety by allowing it to monitor how frequently passengers must cross the street following a drop-off, which it believes presents a potential risk to its customers in scenarios with heavy traffic, for example.
Despite Uber’s insistence that the update does not pose a threat to the privacy of its users, many people are less than thrilled.
In a Twitter moment, some suggested that the update was “creepy.”
Now provide location to Uber all the time, or not at all. Quite arrogant, not using Uber until they fix this. pic.twitter.com/LVGDNtxzKa
Nishant Totla (@nishanttotla) December 2, 2016
this is very scary, @uber. please allow your customers to opt out of this unnecessary tracking. https://t.co/WU1QoSSYSN
Jack Delehanty (@jack_dele) December 5, 2016
@Uber tracking user from when ride is requested until five minutes after it is over “Every step you take, I’ll be watching you” pic.twitter.com/RmY7VzlCNI
Jeremiah Trein (@jtrein) December 5, 2016
Yep. I manually turn off Uber’s access to location when I’m not riding. https://t.co/5sz7NvtL8O
Olivier Knox (@OKnox) December 4, 2016
@Uber_Support what’s up with always tracking? It’s so creepy. Now I have to toggle between turning tracking on and off
electricwitch (@electraisland) December 5, 2016
@Uber hi uber. love the new app design but can u update with an option to only use my location whilst using the app please
Becky Hill (@BeckyHill) December 4, 2016
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) received an official complaint from research and advocacy group Campaigners at the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) against Uber in June 2015 following the company’s announcement of the new update. EPIC claims that the expansion of data collection threatens the privacy rights of consumers.
However, the FTC did not take action against the company, and Uber has now proceeded with the changes via its latest app update.
In an update published in 2015, Katherine Tassi, Managing Counsel of Data Privacy at Uber, writes that “users will be in control: they will be able to choose whether to share the data with Uber.”
The app does allow users to opt-out by turning off the app’s location access. However, EPIC complains that this process “places an unreasonable burden on consumers and is not easy to exercise.”
Mashable has reached out to Uber for comment and will update this post accordingly.
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Read more: http://mashable.com/2016/12/05/uber-data-location/