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Uber bends over for internal privacy probe amid stalking claims

As Al Franken fires off an angry letter. Thanks, Al

US Senator Al Franken (D-MN) has written to Uber demanding answers to questions about the car-hire upstart's interpretation of the word privacy.

It comes after an Uber exec told a dinner in New York that he'd like to sic private detectives on journalists critical of the startup, and it's claimed staff at the company used a "God View" mode of its software to track interesting people – such as VIPs and bothersome reporters.

This shouldn't be a surprise to anyone: this is a company analyzing your one night stands.

In a letter [PDF] to the San Francisco-based biz on Wednesday, Franken asked Uber to provide details on its user tracking policies, and whether it plans to discipline Emil Michael, the exec who suggested digging up dirt to smear hacks.

"Indeed it appears that on prior occasions your company has condoned use of customers' data for questionable purposes," Franken wrote.

Uber quickly distanced itself from Michael's comments, and said it is investigating separate claims a manager in New York misused the "God View" mode.

Today, the biz said staff should only access customers' personal information for "legitimate business purposes" – and promised it would open itself up to privacy experts for their advice. In a blog post on Thursday, Uber insisted:

We have engaged Harriet Pearson, one of the most respected data privacy experts in the world and her colleagues at Hogan Lovells, to work with Uber’s privacy team. Hogan Lovells will conduct an in-depth review and assessment of our existing data privacy program and recommend any needed enhancements so that Uber can ensure that we are a leader in the area of privacy and data protection.

"We’ve learned a lot in four and a half years," added Uber spokeswoman "Natalia", reaching for overstatement of 2014. ®


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