Uber has struck a settlement with the New York Attorney General, ending an investigation into the company’s privacy practices, including its use of the controversial “God View” tool.
The ride-hailing company signed an “assurance of discontinuance” vowing to keep its users personal information private. Uber also has to pay a $20,000 fine for not disclosing a data breach to affected drivers and the state in a timely manner.
In November 2014, the attorney general “wrote a letter of concern” after Buzzfeed reported that Uber had tracked one of its reporters using a tool nicknamed “God View.” The system not only provided Uber an aerial-like view of all of the cars in the city, but also contained the personal information of the riders in them. In a high-profile incident, Uber’s New York general manager Josh Mohrer abused the tool to track BuzzFeed reporter Johana Bhuiyan without her permission.
As part of the settlement, Uber re-assured New York that it had “removed all personally identifiable information of riders from its system that provides an aerial view of cars active in a city, has limited employee access to personally identifiable information of riders, and has begun auditing employee access to personally identifiable information in general.” Buzzfeed first reported the news of the settlement.
Uber also has to pay up for not disclosing in a timely manner that a data breach had exposed some of its driver information, including their licence numbers. The breach occurred in May 2014 but wasn’t discovered by the ride-hailing company until September 2014. It took Uber another five months to notify the affected drivers and the state, which the attorney general took as a failure not to disclose in the “most expedient time possible and without unreasonable delay.”
The $20,000 fine is more like a feather tap on the wrist for Uber, which has raised billions of dollars in funding. But it resulted in Uber voluntarily committing to privacy standards in a way that it can be held accountable later if there’s another slip-up.
“We are deeply committed to protecting the privacy and personal data of riders and drivers,” an Uber spokesperson said. “We are pleased to have reached an agreement with the New York Attorney General that resolves these questions and makes clear our commitment to best practices that put our community first.”
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