FEDS URGED TO INVESTIGATE UBER’S PLAN TO TRACK USERS

A privacy advocacy group is urging federal regulators to investigate Uber’s planned changes to its privacy policy.

The new policy, set to take effect on July 15, would give the ride-hailing service access to users’ address books and allow the company to collect location data even when the app is running in the background.

Those changes, the Electronic Information Privacy Center wrote in a complaint filed to the Federal Trade Commission Monday, “threaten the privacy rights and personal safety of American consumers … and constitute an unfair and deceptive trade practice.”

When the company first announced its planned update to its privacy policy in May, it said the changes could help people get rides more quickly and send special offers to friends and family. “In either case, users will be in control: They will be able to choose whether to share the data with Uber,” Katherine Tassi, an attorney for Uber, wrote in a blog post at the time.

But in its complaint, EPIC argues that the policy places an “unreasonable burden on consumers” and that it is “not easy to exercise” the ability to opt out of the data collection.

The complaint also claims that Uber “has a history of abusing the location data of its customers.” The privacy group points to the controversy over the company’s “God View,” which allowed employees to track an individual user’s real-time or historic location. The company restricted access to the view after Buzzfeed reported on it and Sen. Al Franken sent a letter expressing alarm. The controversy is also what prompted Uber to overhaul its privacy policy.

In an emailed statement Monday, Uber said there is “no basis” for EPIC’s complaint and that the company updated its privacy policy to make it more transparent and readable. “These updated statements don’t reflect a shift in our practices, they more clearly lay out the data we collect today and how it is used to provide or improve our services,” the company said.

Monday’s complaint from EPIC doesn’t necessarily mean that the FTC will take any action against Uber. The agency only has authority to pursue cases against companies if their practices are “unfair” or “deceptive.”

“We welcome complaints from consumers and consumer groups and review them carefully,” said FTC spokesman Jay Mayfield.

View Source