So thoughtful. Uber says it won't track you after you leave their vehicles

Company again reminded of difference between 'we can do this' and 'we should do this'


Amid heavy criticism over how it handles user privacy, Uber has agreed to not track riders after their trips end.

The ride-hailing company has infamously faced legal suits on previous occasions over privacy issues, including software for tracking high-profile individuals, the acquaintances of Uber employees and even drivers working for one of their competitors, Lyft.

Uber claims it's made inroads on privacy since those days, for example by making some controls more transparent. In November, however, it tweaked the location data it collects in a move privacy groups such as EFF called "disappointing".

Riders with iOS and Android devices use location services to automatically determine their starting positions: without them they'd have to input pickup spots manually every time. Previously, they could opt to only share their device's location data while en route, but the controversial November update allowed the company to continue tracking for up to five minutes after they were dropped off. Either they disabled location services or enabled it and got followed.

Uber argued it collected the additional data to improve the experience for riders, such as safety, checking for busy roads or better estimating arrival times. Now, though, it's walking back on the update.

A spokesperson told The Register today that based on feedback from users, it is getting rid of the five minute permissions on Android and iOS in "the coming weeks". It is also reviving the "while using" location sharing setting for iOS.

To settle a court case with the US Federal Trade Commission for mishandling driver and passenger personal info, earlier this month Uber also agreed to twenty years of audits and promised to start a new privacy programme.

"There are still questions about how Uber uses its customers’ data, [but] the removal of post-journey tracking is very welcome," a spokeswoman for the UK-based free speech and digital privacy advocacy Open Rights Group told The Register via email.

"Hopefully, this will send a message to other companies that customers don’t like being tracked without their consent," she added. ®

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