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Uber to end post­-trip tracking of riders

Uber Technologies Inc is pulling a heavily criticised feature from its app that allowed it to track riders for up to five minutes after a trip

business Updated: Aug 30, 2017 09:37 IST
Reuters
Reuters
Reuters, Palo Alto
Uber,App based cab,Dara Khosrowshahi
FILE PHOTO: A photo illustration shows the Uber app logo displayed on a mobile telephone, as it is held up for a posed photograph in central London, Britain October 28, 2016. (REUTERS)

Uber Technologies Inc is pulling a heavily criticised feature from its app that allowed it to track riders for up to five minutes after a trip, its security chief told Reuters, as the ride-services firm tries to fix its poor reputation for customer privacy.

The change, which restores users’ ability to share location data only while using the app, is expected to be announced on Tuesday and rolled out to Apple Inc iPhone users starting this week. It comes as Uber tries to recover from a series of crises culminating in the ouster of CEO Travis Kalanick and other top executives.

Dara Khosrowshahi, the CEO of travel-booking company Expedia Inc is set to become Uber’s new CEO.

The location-tracking update is unrelated to executive changes, said Joe Sullivan, Uber’s chief security officer, in an interview with Reuters. Sullivan and his team of about 500 have been working to beef up customer privacy at Uber since he joined in 2015.

“We’ve been building through the turmoil and challenges because we already had our mandate,” said Sullivan.

An update to the app made last November eliminated the option for users to limit data gathering to only when the app is in use, instead forcing them to choose between letting Uber always collect location data or never collect it.

Uber said it needed permission to gather data in order to track riders for five minutes after a trip was completed, which the company believed could help in ensuring customers’ physical safety.

The option to never track required riders to manually enter pickup and drop-off addresses.

But the changes were met with swift criticism by some users and privacy advocates who called them a breach of user trust by a company already under fire for how it collects and uses customers’ data.

Uber said it never actually began post-trip tracking for iPhone users and suspended it for Android users.

First Published: Aug 30, 2017 09:34 IST