Senator Al Franken, Chairman of the Subcommittee On Privacy, Technology, and the Law, has posted a public letter to Uber CEO Travis Kalanick in which he addresses many of the claims made over the past few days that the company has consistently compromised user privacy as a matter of course.
“I am especially troubled because there appears to be evidence of practices inconsistent with the policy [Uber spokesperson] Ms. Hourajian articulated. It has been reported that a tool known as ‘God view’ is ‘widely available to most Uber corporate employees’ and allows employees to track the location of Uber customers who have requested car service. In at least one incident, a corporate employee reportedly admitted to using the tool to track a journalist. The journalist’s permission had not been requested, and the circumstances of the tracking do not suggest any legitimate business purpose. Indeed, it appears that on prior occasions your company has condoned use of customers’ data for questionable purposes,” wrote Senator Franken.
The letter is a reaction to a number of stories that surfaced recently regarding the alleged stalking of a former TechCrunch journalist as well as accusations that a so-called “God View” had been used to track users (among them journalists) as they used the service. The company stated that it would only look at the data it collected for “legitimate business purposes”. The company addressed these concerns in a post:
Silicon valley playing fast and loose with data is nothing new but Uber’s particular brand of hubris coupled with a trove of data is dangerous. 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.