Uber and Lyft have responded to Senator Al Franken’s concerns about racism but not consumer privacy. Last month Senator Franken sent the companies an open letter on the matter.
In the letter to Uber CEO Travis Kalanick, Senator Franken said, “While the stated justifications for this update appear well-intentioned, I strongly believe that American consumers deserve a meaningful opportunity to decide for themselves the fate of their personal data. At the very least, consumers have a right to clear and comprehensive information about what data are being collected about them, how the data are being treated, and with whom the data are being shared. To achieve this necessary transparency, I urge you to amend Uber’s privacy statement to reflect the company’s public assurances and justifications related to the most recent app update.”
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So what prompted this? Well it was revealed last month that Uber employees were accessing the ride service company’s users’ personal data for nefarious purposes. Some people provide information of people’s locations at different times to jealous boyfriends and other looked up the location of celebrities.
Just before New Year’s, Senator Franken released the letter which Uber sent him in response to his concerns. In it, Uber responded to its many criticisms including accusations that it discriminates against minorities.
The company cited how much work it does in poorer areas in cities like Chicago and Washington D.C. But the letter did not deal with privacy concerns at all.
Senator Franken promised to continue to work against any type of discrimination on the part of companies like Uber. Al Franken stated, “As consumers in Minnesota and across our country come to rely more heavily on services provided online or through apps connected to the gig economy, it’s vital that companies take steps to ensure that new technologies do not give cover to discrimination or bias.”
“I appreciate the steps that both Uber and Lyft have taken to address my concerns regarding discrimination against consumers, including meeting with the authors of a recent study, communicating with their drivers about the companies’ nondiscrimination policies, and monitoring available metrics about ride cancellations. But I remain concerned that certain elements of an app’s platform design-like allowing drivers to see a rider’s name or photo before accepting a ride request-do not sufficiently guard against discriminatory conduct. I have expressed these concerns to the companies, and I look forward to working with them to address these challenges.”