Federal Trade Commission Petitioned To Stop Uber Spamming From Your Phone, Tracking You 24/7

Federal Trade Commission Petitioned To Stop Uber Spamming From Your Phone, Tracking You 24/7

A privacy group filed a formal legal complaint with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) regarding taxi service Uber’s pending “unfair and deceptive data collection practices.” The group is asking federal authorities to halt the unneeded data collection which is due to take effect on July 15, as we covered in late May.

The Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) filed a 23 page complaint on Monday, taking issue with the fact the company will begin collecting location data even when the app is running in the background. The change will not be visibly disclosed to users, instead it will just be a small edit to its lengthy and vague privacy policy.

EPIC has been successful in filing similar complaints against Google and Facebook, resulting in a negotiated settlement to stop the abusive practice.

The complaint also takes issue with another backdoor tactic that allows the scofflaw taxi company to access your address book and use its contents to send unsolicited text messages promoting its service.

The new privacy policy slips that one in there, too. Use the app and you by default agree.

For Uber, a company that notoriously flouts the law, it comes after a November 2014 incident when a company executive proposed hiring private investigators to look into the personal lives and Uber records of journalists in order to “give the media a taste of its own medicine.”

The company also has a terrible track record of protecting user privacy, as in an October 2014 incident company executive displayed a real-time activity map of thirty of its “notable users” at a launch party in Chicago.

The map was a backend feature of Uber’s platform known as “God View,” which lets company officials see a map of all active Uber cars and their passengers. News of this flagrant violation of user privacy only leaked because one of the users on the map found out he was being tracked when an attendee of the party began texted him his Uber’s exact location.

Chris Hoofnagle, a lecturer in law at the University of California, Berkeley, said “I’m willing to bet that the FTC is already investigating Uber. The FTC loves to target the whales in industry because matters bought against large companies generate headlines and bring smaller companies to heel as well.”

Uber spokeswoman Molly Spaeth said that “There is no basis for this complaint. We care deeply about the privacy of our riders and driver-partners,” yet it remains to be seen how this squares with the company’s well documented track record of both flouting the law and flagrantly abusing user privacy.

Uber refused to comment directly on the FTC investigation or the changes, except that they were disclosed in its privacy policy – which nobody currently running the app will ever read.

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