Uber app will soon maybe track you 24/7, cry privacy warriors

EPIC fail for taxi app upstart – if claims come true


Uber's smartphone app will soon track and report back the whereabouts of its users even when they're not using the software, the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) now fears.

The campaign group is also upset that the app may send copies of people's address books to Uber, and has filed a formal complaint to US watchdog the Federal Trade Commission to block any such snooping.

"In less than four weeks, Uber will claim the right to collect personal contact information and detailed location data of American consumers, even when they are not using the service," the complaint [PDF] states.

"These changes ignore the FTC's prior decisions, threaten the privacy rights and personal safety of American consumers, ignore past bad practices of the company involving the misuse of location data, pose a direct risk of consumer harm, and constitute an unfair and deceptive trade practice."

EPIC reckons Uber's new terms and conditions, introduced on May 28, will allow the taxi app to collect the location of its users via their smartphones' GPS tech even if the app is running in the background unused; if someone switches off the satellite service, the Uber app will use the smartphone's public IP address to get a rough idea of where they are geographically, we're told.

The privacy group also claims that contact books will be collected and phoned home to the San Francisco-headquartered biz; for users of Uber's Android app, there will be no way to stop this. iOS users will be able to withhold their contacts during the installation of the software.

Even if you can opt out of this information gobbling, EPIC insists it is too invasive. To bolster its case, it quotes tweets expressing disquiet about the new T&Cs.

EPIC wants the FTC to halt the background collection of location data and contact information by Uber; launch an investigation into the firm's business practices; and force the biz to publish its software algorithms so people can know how their data is being processed and to what end.

It's going to be tricky for EPIC to make some of these charges stick. For a start, location tracking is kinda Uber's whole point – it's difficult for drivers to find you otherwise. Similarly, there's no evidence that the biz is harvesting contacts willy-nilly.

The new terms and conditions are due to go into effect on July 15.

"There is no basis for this complaint," a spokesperson for Uber told The Register in a statement.

"We care deeply about the privacy of our riders and driver-partners and have significantly streamlined our privacy statements in order to improve readability and transparency. These updated statements don't reflect a shift in our practices, they more clearly lay out the data we collect today and how it is used to provide or improve our services." ®

Similar topics


Other stories you might like

  • Want to buy your own piece of the Pi? No 'urgency' says Upton of the listing rumours

    A British success story... what happens next?

    Industry talk is continuing to circulate regarding a possible listing for the UK makers of the diminutive Raspberry Pi computer.

    Over the weekend, UK newspaper The Telegraph reported that a spring listing could be in the offing, with a valuation of more than £370m slapped onto the computer maker.

    Pi boss, Eben Upton, described the article as "interesting" in an email to The Register today, before repeating that "we're always looking at ways to fund the future growth of the business, but the $45m we raised in September has taken some of the urgency out of that."

    Continue reading
  • JetBrains embraces remote development with new IDE for multiple programming languages

    Security, collaboration, flexible working: Fleet does it all, says project lead

    JetBrains has introduced remote development for its range of IDEs as well as previewing a new IDE called Fleet, which will form the basis for fresh tools covering all major programming languages.

    JetBrains has a core IDE used for the IntelliJ IDEA Java tool as well other IDEs such as Android Studio, the official programming environment for Google Android, PyCharm for Python, Rider for C#, and so on. The IDEs run on the Java virtual machine (JVM) and are coded using Java and Kotlin, the latter being primarily a JVM language but with options for compiling to JavaScript or native code.

    Fleet is "both an IDE and a lightweight code editor," said the company in its product announcement, suggesting perhaps that it is feeling some pressure from the success of Microsoft's Visual Studio Code, which is an extensible code editor. Initial language support is for Java, Kotlin, Go, Python, Rust, and JavaScript, though other languages such as C# will follow. Again like VS Code, Fleet can run on a local machine or on a remote server. The new IDE uses technology developed for IntelliJ such as its code-processing engine for features such as code completion and refactoring.

    Continue reading
  • Nextcloud and cloud chums fire off competition complaint to the EU over Microsoft bundling OneDrive with Windows

    No, it isn't the limited levels of storage that have irked European businesses

    EU software and cloud businesses have joined Nextcloud in filing a complaint with the European Commission regarding Microsoft's alleged anti-competitive behaviour over the bundling of its OS with online services.

    The issue is OneDrive and Microsoft's habit of packaging it (and other services such as Teams) with Windows software.

    Nextcloud sells on-premises collaboration platforms that it claims combine "the convenience and ease of use of consumer-grade solutions like Dropbox and Google Drive with the security, privacy and control business needs." Microsoft's cloud storage system, OneDrive, is conspicuous by its absence.

    Continue reading

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2021