The latest update to the popular ride-sharing app Uber has copped criticism for a new feature that may impinge on the privacy of its users.
The new update sees Uber request permission to collect location information even if the app is not running. If the user denies this request, location service is switched off entirely, meaning pickup points have to be manually entered in and ride tracking would be inactive.
Uber says in its request to users that location data would be collected for five minutes after a ride has ended, to “improve pickups, dropoffs, customer service and enhance safety”.
Following a user backlash on social media, US privacy group Electronic Frontier Foundation has reportedly asked Uber to rollback the feature. Previously location data was only collected while the app was running.
“Tracking you five minutes after you have been dropped off — some people might have very legitimate reasons why they don’t want a record about that,” EFF deputy executive director Kurt Opsahl told BuzzFeed News.
“They may be concerned about getting into some database about their location and may get dropped off across the street. It’s sad to take that away.”
— Ryan Lizza (@RyanLizza) December 5, 2016
It should be noted the five-minute period is entirely dependent on Uber’s word, as saying “yes” to the location data request technically allows the app to access the information at any time.
“The five-minute thing is disturbing. Obviously that’s not 24/7 tracking, but they are reserving themselves the ability to do that, which is even scarier,” American Civil Liberties Union senior policy analyst Jay Stanley told BuzzFeed News. “If Uber wants to make a case to its customers that they stand to benefit from additional uses of data, it should make that case and let customers opt in.”
Business Insider contacted Uber Australia but it declined to comment on record.
GoCatch chief executive David Holmes accused his company’s biggest rival of “profiling” customers.
“Tracking users while not in a job breaches the inferred permission of the app and is typical of the Big Brother tactics of Uber,” he said. “This is not at all related to improving service. Uber is trying to access private information to profile passengers.”