Archive for the ‘Car Booking Company’ Category

Service of Strangers Knowing More About You Than Your Family Does

Monday, June 15th, 2015

I wake up to Len Berman and Todd Schnitt in the Morning on WOR 710 Radio, a welcome addition to the NYC media scene since January. Last Thursday Schnitt, [on the right in the photo with Berman, at right], said he’d deleted the Uber app from his Android phone because he didn’t want to give the company access to his address book nor did he want the company to know his location even if he hadn’t opened the app. He said the latter intrusion will happen in July. Schnitt said he takes yellow cabs to work every morning at 4a.m.–the show runs from 6 am to 10–and plans to look for a different car booking company, like Lyft.

I asked a friend (in her 20s) what she thought about all this surveillance, shadowing and privacy invasion. She said, “I always just think/sort of joke around that my iPhone knows more about me than I do. The other day my phone told me how long it would be for me to get to Columbia [University] from midtown — I never put that in as a home address or anything. The phone just sort of figured out on its own that I was there a lot. Creepy. 

“As for Uber,” the recent Columbia Journalism grad student continued, “there was that ‘God view’ feature which gave away a users’ location. Not sure if that is still in use. It makes sense to a certain extent so the driver can find you but access beyond that they shouldn’t have—such as your contacts’ info!”

According to Insurance Journal, “The car booking company now more clearly tells its customers it can pretty much track everything they do while using the Uber app, after facing criticism over privacy, especially its use of a tool called God View enabling the company to know where its riders were at any given moment.” Eric Newcomer, who wrote “Uber Discloses Expanded Customer Data Tracking,” continued: “the firm said Uber needed to make sure it was clearer and more transparent, rather than significantly altering its existing policies.” The [law] firm referred to is Hogan Lovells.

“The new privacy policy is clear,” wrote Newcomer. “…The company can read text messages you send to drivers, follow your location as you ride in an Uber and store your address book on its servers. Customers can find the policy on the app and the company’s website.”

Newcomer reinforced what talk show host Schnitt said. He wrote: “With the new update, which takes effect July 15, Uber can ask permission to track a rider’s location even when the application isn’t open.” And “Uber retains permission to hand over data to third parties. If a rider is using Uber for business, the startup can turn over data to the rider’s employer.”

Remember the prehistoric slogan about customers always being right? At Uber the drivers rate customers. If you keep a driver waiting, if you aren’t as polite or friendly as a driver expects a passenger to be, you’ll get a bad grade. Why does this matter? If you are looking for transportation at rush hour or after an event, you very well might be left waiting on the curb.

Sidebar: Why did Uber hire the law firm in the first place? According to Newcomer: “Uber hired Hogan Lovells after the company faced criticism for prying into journalists’ private lives.”

Uber, available around the world, has caught on like wildfire [though it’s encountering legal glitches in France, Germany and South Korea according to techcrunch.com]. In February alone, according to fusion.net, the company attracted $2.8 billion in venture capital.

Is the public so in love with clever technology that it accepts every–and anything–from a company that’s expert at it? Have you used the service? Will you continue to after July 15?

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