Uber's Top New York Executive Is Being Investigated After Using Uber's 'God View' Tool To Track A Journalist's Location

Josh mohrer, sa100Twitter/@joshmohrerUber’s New York general manager Josh Mohrer is being investigated by Uber amid privacy concerns.

Uber is investigating its New York general manager Josh Mohrer for tracking a BuzzFeed reporter’s location without her permission, BuzzFeed reported Tuesday night

Mohrer used a tool called “God View” to track BuzzFeed reporter Johana Bhuiyan’s location without asking her for permission, an action that violates the company’s privacy policy. 

Earlier this month, Bhuiyan arrived at Uber’s Long Island City offices in an Uber vehicle for an interview with Mohrer, according to BuzzFeed. When she arrived, Mohrer was waiting for her. Holding his iPhone, he said: “There you are. I was tracking you.”

Additionally, to answer questions Bhuiyan had about Lyft, an Uber competitor, Mohrer emailed Bhuiyan logs of her Uber rides. Mohrer did not ask for Bhuiyan’s permission before accessing that information, BuzzFeed reports.

God View is an internal tool that allows corporate Uber employees to track the whereabouts of customers as they travel in Uber vehicles. From BuzzFeed:

Tracking customers is easy using an internal company tool called ‘God View,’ two former Uber employees told BuzzFeed News. They said God View, which shows the location of Uber vehicles and customers who have requested a car, was widely available to corporate employees. Drivers, who operate as contractors, do not have access to God View.

The former employees BuzzFeed talked to said God View was “easily accessible” across the company, but neither employee was said to have witnessed the tool being used improperly by others at Uber.

This isn’t the first time Uber’s God View tool has made the news. In September, a venture capitalist named Peter Sims wrote a post on Medium called “Can We Trust Uber?

Sims says three years ago he was taking an Uber SUV through Manhattan when an acquaintance texted and asked whether he was in an Uber vehicle at 33th and 5th. He confirmed that he was, and the acquaintance later revealed she was at an Uber Chicago launch, and at the party Uber had a screen showing where certain people in New York were riding around in Uber vehicles.

Uber posted its privacy policy for the first time on its blog Tuesday (though the company says this has always been its privacy policy). In it, the company says it has a “strict policy prohibiting all employees at every level from accessing a rider or driver’s data. The only exception to this policy is for a limited set of legitimate business purposes. Our policy has been communicated to all employees and contractors.”

Legitimate business purposes include, according to Uber’s blog post: 

  • Supporting riders and drivers in order to solve problems brought to their attention by the Uber community. 

  • Facilitating payment transactions for drivers. 

  • Monitoring driver and rider accounts for fraudulent activity, including terminating fake accounts and following up on stolen credit-card reports. 

  • Reviewing specific rider or driver accounts in order to troubleshoot bugs.

Breaching Uber’s privacy policy, according to Uber’s blog post, could result in employees being terminated or facing legal action.

San Francisco magazine reporter Ellen Cushing was warned by Uber employees that the company could look at her rider logs, she reported Tuesday.

On Monday, BuzzFeed editor-in-chief Ben Smith reported that Emil Michael, Uber’s SVP of business, suggested the company hire an oppositional research team to dig up dirt on journalists critical of the company. Michael made the comments at a dinner party that Smith had been invited to. 

An Uber spokesperson provided this statement to Business Insider: “Our data privacy policy applies to all employees: access to and use of data is permitted only for legitimate business purposes. Data security specialists monitor and audit that access on an ongoing basis. Violations of this policy do result in disciplinary action, including the possibility of termination and legal action.”

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