Uber Ditches Post-Ride User Tracking

John Lister's picture

Uber has ditched a policy that meant it could track a user's location for five minutes after the cab has dropped them off. The move could be related to a change in management.

Until last November, users had the option to only give the 'ridesharing' app permission to access location data on their phone while they were actually using it. Following an update, users had to choose between giving permission for continuous tracking or having location details switched off completely.

Customers Choose Between Privacy and Convenience

The latter option meant that although the app would still work, users would have to manually input their location and where they wanted to go, rather than have their location automatically selected and be able to tap on a map to give their destination.

The former option theoretically meant Uber could track the users' location 24/7. In fact, the company says it only did so for five minutes after a drop off, something it said was to ensure customer safety, though it hasn't detailed why this was the case. It adds that this was only done on Android devices (and eventually the feature was dropped), with the additional tracking never actually used on iPhones. (Source: reuters.com)

Company Reputation Under Repair

Joe Sullivan, Uber's security chief, says that although this benefited customers, the company did a poor job of explaining why it felt the extra five minutes of tracking was necessary. Users will now be able to return to having location data only collected when the app is in use. Sullivan says any expansion to the tracking will be opt-in and have a clear explanation of why it's needed. (Source: theguardian.com)

The change comes shortly after the appointment of former Expedia boss Dara Khosworwshahi to run Uber, taking over from the highly controversial company founder Travis Kalanick. The change of management has prompted a series of changes that are designed to improve the company's reputation, particularly when it comes to privacy and security issues.

What's Your Opinion?

Is there any logical reason why tracking users for five minutes after drop-off could help their safety? Do you agree with Uber's defense that the real problem wasn't the policy itself but rather the lack of explanation? Should mobile operating systems require clearer warnings about when an app does and doesn't access information such as a phone's location?

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Dennis Faas's picture

I can't imagine why Uber would want to track users for 5 entire minutes after being dropped off, other than to have proof that the user was in fact dropped off at the desired location - perhaps for legal or dispute purposes. Another idea might be that some users were gaming the system, taking ride after ride for free, and they needed the location tracking to find out how the system was being gamed.

JeffRL's picture

I've had seven knee surgeries and walk with a cane, but I wouldn't use Uber if they had the only vehicles left on the planet and the hounds of hell were in hot pursuit of me during a zombie apocalypse.

guitardogg's picture

Simple solution, use LYFT instead! Much, much better than Uber!!!