Uber may be popular, but the service has faced a bumpy ride to the top. Accusations of theft, hiring former CIA agents to hassle people it doesn’t like, and outright price manipulation have all haunted the company’s past, and now the latest problem is here. It’s starting to look, quite a bit, like Uber will hand your personal data to anybody at the company who feels like looking through it.
The accusations come from the Center for Investigative Reporting, and the accusations allege not only that Uber collects lots of data about you, but that you don’t really need an excuse to look at that data if you work for the company:
“Uber’s lack of security regarding its customer data was resulting in Uber employees being able to track high profile politicians, celebrities, and even personal acquaintances of Uber employees, including ex-boyfriends/girlfriends, and ex-spouses,” [former Uber forensic investigator Ward] Spangenberg wrote in a court declaration, signed in October under penalty of perjury.
It doesn’t get better from there. Another member of the company’s security team notes that your private information is basically held on the honor system; after all, what misuse could knowing a person’s every move possibly be put to by, say, stalking ex-boyfriends?
It’d be one thing if this were the first time we’d heard about Uber’s propensity for being free with your data, but the company has gotten in serious trouble over mishandling data before. One of Uber’s top executives was accused of using a tool called “God View” to amuse his party guests, and the company has fallen afoul of the Federal Trade Commission for its surge pricing and related data issues. The company also apparently encrypted laptops remotely to fight Canadian tax authorities, something that it lost a court argument over.
So, if you climb into an Uber, just remember that everybody who works for the company knows where you’re going, where you came from, and thanks to the app’s permissions, track where you go even when you’re not using Uber. Maybe now would be a good time to consider a bus pass?