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Senator Al Franken Calling on Uber CEO Kalanick to Answer User Abuse Allegations

Senator Al Franken
Senator Al Franken, Chairman of the Subcommittee On Privacy, Technology, and the Law, on Wednesday posted a public letter to Uber CEO Travis Kalanick, dealing with accusations that Uber has been compromising user privacy.

“I am especially troubled because there appears to be evidence of practices inconsistent with the policy [Uber spokesperson] Ms. Hourajian articulated. It has been reported that a tool known as ‘God view’ is ‘widely available to most Uber corporate employees’ and allows employees to track the location of Uber customers who have requested car service. In at least one incident, a corporate employee reportedly admitted to using the tool to track a journalist. The journalist’s permission had not been requested, and the circumstances of the tracking do not suggest any legitimate business purpose. Indeed, it appears that on prior occasions your company has condoned use of customers’ data for questionable purposes, ” wrote Senator Franken.

Franken asked eight questions, to be answered in the Senate in coming weeks. “Your policies suggest that customers’ personal information and usage information, including geolocation data, is maintained indefinitely — indeed even after an account is terminated.

“Why? What limits are you considering imposing? In particular, when an account is terminated, why isn’t this information deleted as soon as pending chmges or other transactional disputes are resolved? Where in your privacy policy do you address the ‘limited set of legitimate business uses’ that may justify employees’ access to riders’ and drivers’ data, including sensitive geolocation data?”

The letter came in the heel of accusations of stalking of a former TechCrunch journalist, and allegations that the “God View” is being used to track users (including journalists) as they use the Uber service.

The company responded with the following post:

“Uber’s business depends on the trust of the riders and drivers that use our technology and platform. The trip history of our riders is confidential information, and Uber protects this data from internal and external unauthorized access. As the company continues to grow, we will continue to be transparent about our policy and ensure that it is properly understood by our employees.”

Well, we certainly hope so…

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