Uber has called out U.S. regulators for massive data collection policies that threaten its competitive edge and put its users’ privacy at risk.
With 33 requests in the last six months demanding data on 12 million Uber drivers and users, the company highlighted the extensive scrutiny by U.S. regulators that it faces. “[Uber trip data] can reveal patterns of behavior and is more than regulators need to do their jobs. It’s why Uber frequently tries to narrow the scope of these demands, though our efforts are typically rebuffed,” the company wrote.
While the collected data, which U.S. regulators use for monitoring volume of rides and driver activity, is anonymized, it encompasses detailed information, including pickup and dropoff addresses, GPS coordinates and route maps. This, Uber says, compromises its market position and puts customer privacy at risk, as part of that collected data is available for public review under FOIA.
The threats to user privacy are not as far-fetched as one might think. In 2014, Gawker reporter J.K. Trotter managed to track down the movement of several celebrities, including Bradley Cooper and Kourtney Kardashian, in NYC by comparing time and location noted in paparazzi photo shots against 2013 data on NYC cabs acquired from the state.
“Of course, regulators will always need some amount of data to be effective, just like law enforcement. But, in many cases, they send blanket requests without explaining why the information is needed or how it will be used,” the company wrote about in its “transparency report.”
The company’s vocal stance on its position against U.S. regulators comes after a California judge slapped a fine on Uber last January for not providing detailed driver data to the state’s Public Utilities Commission, The Guardian reported.
With its open letter, Uber said, it hopes to open a new dialogue on consumer data protection. The San Francisco-based company joins several other Silicon Valley heavyweights, such as Facebook and Apple, that have stepped up their stances on privacy protection and have called out the government on their blanket requests.