Uber’s bad behavior has earned it a stern letter from Senator Al Franken, a Democrat from Minnesota, questioning the ride-sharing company’s tracking of users’ personal data.
Franken sent a letter Wednesday to Uber CEO Travis Kalanick with ten tough questions regarding reports of “troubling disregard for customers’ privacy, including the need to protect their sensitive geolocation data.”
Emil Michael, senior vice president of business for Uber, is no doubt regretting some remarks he made at a dinner party in New York over the past weekend, during which he reportedly threatened to “expose” PandoDaily editor-in-chief Sarah Lacy in retaliation for her criticism of the company. BuzzFeed editor-in-chief Ben Smith, to whom Michael made the remarks, broke the story, reporting that Uber suggested spending “a million dollars” to dredge up dirt on critical journalists.
Since then, Uber has been doing damage control, even as new details arise indicating just how much access the company has to users’ location and trip data. BuzzFeed also reported that Uber employees have access to a tool called “God View,” which allows them to track the locations of drivers and customers in real time.
Uber spokesperson Nairi Hourdajian outlined a number of reasons why employees might use “God View” and claimed the company monitored their access.
“Data security specialists monitor and audit that access on an ongoing basis,” Hourdajian wrote. “Violations of this policy do result in disciplinary action, including the possibility of termination and legal action.”
Franken is not convinced. His letter demands answers on the use of “God View,” Uber’s internal data sharing, Uber’s external data sharing with third parties, and other privacy concerns. Most concerning is the observation that Uber may maintain customers’ information long after they delete the app. Franken wants to know why.
Franken signed off with a request that Kalanick respond to his queries by December 15. Read the entire letter below:
Photo by John Taylor