by Eben Griger
Uber announced this week that they will be ending their practice of tracking your phone after your ride ends. So in other news, Uber was tracking you after your ride ends. Okay, so this wasn’t exactly a secret. The story originally debuted in 2016, but aside from privacy advocates it never really gained much traction. Also you’re only tracked for five minutes, which isn’t huge for an app that already has your end destination.
But it’s the principle of the tracking that’s important here. The app doesn’t ask you to opt in to what they call “post trip collection,” and the only way to opt out is to turn off location services (which kind of defeats the purpose of Uber). That, paired with Uber’s below-average track record of handling that data puts users in a pretty startling situation.
Unlike with AccuWeather, there is no record of this data being sold, but that doesn’t mean it’s not being shared. Uber gives the data to Google, who gives it to Hotbox, who now knows where a bunch of college student are going to be and start passing out flyers there to drum up some business. This is purely hypothetical and relatively harmless, but it’s done without the users’ knowledge and done so automatically.
So without getting too Orwellian (more than this already is), this issue really falls on the users. Do we want more convenience at the cost of privacy or safety at the cost of what makes many apps run so smoothly?