Uber is reportedly putting an end to a contentious feature that allows employees to track riders even after the trip is completed.
The ride-sharing service turned tech conglomerate is set to update the app so that customers can control when they are sharing location data, according to Reuters. The highly criticized capability was first reported last year by TechCrunch, which noted that the company was able to decipher users locations up to five minutes after the ride was over because — among other factors — the app often still runs on the background of phones.
“We do this to improve pickups, drop-offs, customer service, and to enhance safety,” Uber’s official help page reads.
The post-trip tracking function was just one of Uber’s many heavily debated programs and features. It has been accused of creating and operating three invasive spy programs in recent months and years, showing the lengths the company will go in order to survive and thrive in the ride-hailing market.
Authorities investigated Uber in 2014 for a tool the company reportedly uses called “God View” or “Heaven.” (RELATED: Lyft Sees Opening For $500 Million Cash Grab As Uber Struggles)
The software would allow workers (usually at a higher level) to track riders without their permission. The company ultimately agreed to pay a $20,000 penalty and modify its privacy and security practices, after the New York attorney general’s office launched an official investigation.
A whistleblower announced in December he was suing Uber, his former employer, for wrongful termination. In the legal complaint, which was filed almost two years after initial allegations, he accuses the company of continuing to use “God View,” which Bruce Schneier, a prominent security technologist, called “creepy” in a CNN op-ed.
“Uber’s lack of security regarding its customer data was resulting in Uber employees being able to track high profile politicians, celebrities, and even personal acquaintances of Uber employees, including ex-boyfriends/girlfriends, and ex-spouses,” Ward Spangenberg, who worked as a forensic investigator for the ride-sharing service, wrote in the court declaration.
The company has also allegedly been using covert software known as “Hell” to spy on drivers using Lyft, its little brother ride-sharing competitor. The computer program reportedly creates fake Lyft passengers accounts with locations dispersed across a certain area to track as many of the company’s drivers as possible. (RELATED: Tim Cook Once Thought He Caught Uber Spying On iPhone Users. So He Called A Meeting)
Uber’s spying practice were apparently so intense that at least two federal agencies, the U.S. Department of Justice and Federal Trade Commission, both launched official investigations. Due to the pushback and several other setbacks and embarrassments, Uber is now ending at least one of its spying programs.
This specific change though is expected to only effect iPhone users, reports Reuters, while smartphones embedded with the Android operating system will have to wait for the modification.
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