Sen. Al Franken Questions Lyft On Its Privacy Practices

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Senator Al Franken today sent a letter to Lyft asking it to detail its privacy practices.

Sen. Franken’s questions come in 10 parts, and hit on predictable points: which employees can access customer data; how training is structured for employees that can access that information; what “mechanisms” exist to provide oversight of worker activity; and how third-party corporations interact with user data.

The Senator expects a response by the end of the year.

The Senator previously asked Uber 10 related, but different questions regarding how it handles user data. Uber, arguably the most popular ridesharing service, managed to mangle its public relations position recently, when one of its executives proposed putting together a $1 million opposition research fund go after journalists it didn’t care for. The ensuing flap was followed by revelations that it had played loose with user privacy, including allegedly allowing a potential hire access to customer data.

Uber and Lyft are two leading parties to the ridesharing wave, which has been quick to dismantle taxi monopolies in cities. The new market niche has been so successful that the price of taxi medallions has been falling for some time.

However, as Lyft and Uber have grown by leaps and bounds, questions regarding how they manage user information has risen to the fore — car services of any stripe are privy to private moments and information about your movements that others might find incredibly interesting. Keeping users’ privacy secure is paramount.

You recall that last Uber or Lyft you took early on a Saturday morning wearing last night’s pants, don’t you?

The senator’s queries also underscore growing interest in Washington about Silicon Valley’s startup culture, where companies are quick to pursue technological solutions to frictions in often regulated environments end up irking entrenched parties.

As TechCrunch noted when Sen. Franken sent Uber a missive:

We users trust services like Uber because they are at once familiar and also terribly high tech. When a company abuses that trust, everyone loses. While a draconian (and EU-like) policy isn’t imperative, common sense and a dedication to the humanity and privacy of customers certainly is.

That’s correct. Bringing Lyft into the fold only makes sense. Welcome to the new normal.