Uber is handing passenger and driver data to the British police

Kirsty O’Connor – PA Images / Getty ImagesA black cab driver waves a Union Jack flag whilst standing on a taxi on London Bridge, during a protest against TfL and Uber.
  • The British police receive passengers’ and drivers’ private data from Uber to tackle child exploitation, human trafficking, and drug dealing in the UK, according to court documents.
  • Uber said in documents, reported by the Times, that police support proves that the taxi company is “fit and proper.” The documents form part of Uber’s appeal against a London ban.
  • Police access to Uber data compromises the rights of drivers, couriers and passengers, the UK-based App Drivers & Couriers Union said.
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Uber is handing over both passengers’ and drivers’ private data to the British police, who oppose an impending ban on the app in London, according to court documents.

Senior police officers want Uber to continue operating in the UK capital because the taxi app shares 2,000 pieces of “vital” information each year, according to documents Uber submitted in an appeal against the ban, per The Times.

This data can track drug transporting and child trafficking, a letter from the National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC) to transport body Transport for London (TfL) said.

The letter said that if there was no shared “data and support” it would hinder the police’s ability to tackle drug dealing, human trafficking, and child exploitation, and to protect vulnerable people.

Uber said that the support from the police proves that the taxi company is “fit and proper.” Lawyers defending the ride-sharing giant said that Uber collaborates with counterterrorism policing networks, the National Crime Agency, and the British Transport Police, The Times reported.

A leading union for private drivers in the UK said Thursday that police access to Uber data is “disproportionate, unjustified, and a threat to the civil liberties of drivers, couriers and customers.”

The head of the App Drivers & Couriers Union (ADCU), James Farrar, said in a statement: “With Uber’s licence hanging by a thread, the rideshare giant is particularly vulnerable to undue pressure from police and regulatory authorities to compromise the personal data protection rights of their drivers, couriers and passengers.”

TfL guidance says private taxi firms should report “alleged or suspected criminal conduct” to the police, even when a passenger or third party refuses, or doesn’t give consent, for their data to be shared, it says.

The four-day hearing to appeal against the city’s transport body, TfL, revoking Uber’s licence began on Monday at Westminster Magistrates’ Court.

Last year, TfL stripped Uber of its London licence for the second time since 2017. More than 14,000 people had faked their identity on the app so they could pick up passengers in the capital city, it said.

Since its licence was taken away, the taxi app has made improvements to its systems, TfL said in a statement in November, but these changes weren’t sufficient for a licence to be granted. Uber launched a new driver identification system in April, whereby drivers take a selfie which is verified via facial recognition before picking up passengers.

London is one of Uber’s largest markets, with around 45,000 drivers and 3.5 million users in the city. Uber’s future in London will be announced on September 28, when the verdict on the licence will be made.

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