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Uber hires data privacy expert to prove it's not awful

But it's still awful

Financial trends and news by Faith Merino
November 20, 2014
Short URL: http://vator.tv/n/3a8b

So much foot-eating this week, Uber. If it wasn’t bad enough that Uber made not-so-secret plans to broadcast the personal lives of journalists who don’t write puff pieces about the company, it may have gone so far as to dig around in the rider logs of one journalist in particular without asking her permission. All sorts of privacy violations up in here.

After posting a laughable blog assuring customers that the company will never dig through their personal data without their permission—unless they do—Uber announced Thursday that it has hired data privacy expert Harriet Pearson and her colleagues at Hogan Lovells to conduct an in-depth review of the company’s current data privacy program and recommend any changes.

The move comes shortly after one striking detail in the story that broke Tuesday got a lot of privacy feathers ruffled. Ellen Cushing of San Francisco magazine said that Uber employees warned her that executives were possibly looking into her rider logs to see which employees she was speaking with for an article about CEO Travis Kalanick. Sooo, Uber execs can just dig around through their customers’ user data whenever they feel like? No! said Uber. Only when it serves a “legitimate business purpose.”

If you’re seeing a giant gaping loophole visible from space in that sentence, you’re not alone.

Following the maelstrom earlier this week, Uber clarified in a blog post that no, of course its executives don’t just dig around through users’ information all willy nilly. It only does so when it has good reason to.

So what qualifies as a “legitimate business purpose”? The list includes “facilitating payment transactions for drivers,” troubleshooting bugs, monitoring accounts for fraudulent activity, and a nebulous “solving problems brought up by the community” category.

A growing list of critics has come out to call for Emil Michael’s and/or Travis Kalanick’s resignation, including Robert Scoble, comedian and Daily Show regular John Hodgman, and Senator Al Franken, to name a few. Senator Franken is particularly troubled by the fact that Uber seems to be violating its own privacy policies. In an open letter to Travis Kalanick, Senator Franken referenced the alleged use of user data to track a journalist’s movements without her knowledge and asked, “Under what circumstances would an employee face discipline for a violation of Uber’s privacy policies? Have any disciplinary actions been taken on this basis?”

 

Image source: pandodaily


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