But why does Uber need to access your location data when you’re not using the app? That’s still not entirely clear.
An Uber statement says “location data is essential to connect drivers to riders,” but this is ambiguous at best. The Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC), the group planning to file the complaint, sees it as unreasonable. The EPIC’s complaint says “this collection of user’s information far exceeds what customers expect from the transportation service. Users would not expect the company to collect location information when customers are not actively using the app.”
Uber’s new policy also allows access to a user’s contacts. According to Uber, this will allow “Uber to launch new promotional features that use contacts — for example the ability to send special offers to riders’ friends or family.”
But Uber is already hedging on these new policies. It said it won’t necessarily begin tracking users on July 15, but is merely exploring “potential new use cases,” according to USA Today. And it says there will be methods of opting out.
Uber unfortunately has a rocky track record with tracking its users, however, and was caught tracking a BuzzFeed reporter’s location without her permission using a feature called “God View” last November. Uber has since investigated the New York general manager responsible, Josh Mohrer, claiming in a statement that it has a “strict policy prohibiting all employees at every level from accessing a rider or driver’s data,” while “the only exception to this policy is for a limited set of legitimate business purposes.”
The EPIC’s complaint requests that the FTC stop Uber from collecting location data when it is “unnecessary” for the service.