Uber has told Australia it wants to stop butting heads with regulators and will offer them traffic data as their quid pro quo for official recognition.
The company told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation's 730 programme last week that “We have a lot of information about how people are moving around their cities, so there's a lot in it for cities”.
The comments were made by the company's senior veep David Plouffe on a visit to Australia. Plouffe says the trip data would help with traffic analysis and planning.
The offer matches an arrangement in place with Boston.
The data would be anonymised – because we know how well that works – so as to protect passengers' privacy, he said.
Instead the data offered will describe the time a journey started, the time it ended, distance travelled, and the postcodes of the start and end of the journeys.
The company's UberX service has been criticised in many countries, including Australia, because it falls outside public transport regulation. While Uber's hire cars depend on the app to set them apart from other hire services, UberX allows individuals to ride-share, and has been declared illegal by a number of Australian state public transport authorities.
+Comment: Uber's suggestion lands at a sensitive time in Australia, where there's an active debate over mandated government data retention.
While assertions of data anonymity are easy to make, there are repeated demonstrations that very little correlation is required to distinguish and identify individuals.
Vulture South doesn't imagine, for example, that correlating an individual whose ride details are in the Uber data set against the same person's stored telecommunications data would pose any particular challenges.
And that's without considering any possible leaks that might occur from Uber's own data.
What could possibly go wrong? ®