Home » Science & Technology » Uber's creepy post-trip stalking policy finally comes to an end

Uber's creepy post-trip stalking policy finally comes to an end

Sahil Bhalla | Updated on: 30 August 2017, 18:17 IST
(Hemant Mishra/Mint via Getty Images)

Uber has finally pulled the plug on its controversial in-app tracking feature called "post-trip collection" after heavy criticism by consumer and privacy groups. The feature enabled Uber to track riders for up to five minutes after a trip ended. John Sullivan, Uber's security chief, confirmed the developments to Reuters on 29 August.

This change ensures that users only share their location data whilst using the app. The change has already been rolled out for iPhone users this week.

This comes as Uber is recovering from a string of crises that ended with Travis Kalanic being ousted as chief executive, with Persian-American Dara Khosrowshahi, former CEO of travel-booking company Expedia Inc, stepping into the role.

Sullivan, however, was quick to add that the location-tracking update had nothing to do with the executive changes. He also said that his team of about 500 people had been working hard to beef up customer privacy ever since his entry into the company in 2015.

The start of the problem

In December 2016, Uber had prevented users from allowing GPS tracking only while the app was being used. Instead, the only options the app offered for GPS tracking were "always" or "never". The "always" option had a clause where Uber could track users for up to five minutes after a trip had ended.

Uber defended the dubious feature by saying that the data was used to "improve pickups, drop-offs, customer service, and to enhance safety." The change was rammed down consumers' throats, with users getting just one chance to opt out.

Selecting the "never" option proved to be an even more tiresome choice, with the result being that one had to manually enter addresses. The alternative, of course, was to switch back and forth between "always" and "never", hardly a convenient option.

Privacy concerns

The changes to the app last December came with immediate criticism. The company was under fire for breaching user trust. Uber, for its part, said it never actually began post-trip tracking for iPhone users, while claiming it had suspended the feature for Android users.

This change comes just two weeks after a US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) complaint was settled by Uber. The complaint was that the company failed to protect the personal information of both passengers and drivers, and that Uber didn't do enough to prevent snooping from its employees.

Under the agreement with the FTC, Uber is required to implement a comprehensive privacy program that addresses all privacy risks related to its services.

First published: 30 August 2017, 18:17 IST
Sahil Bhalla @IMSahilBhalla

Sahil is a correspondent at Catch. A gadget freak, he loves offering free tech support to family and friends. He studied at Sarah Lawrence College, New York and worked previously for Scroll. He selectively boycotts fast food chains, worries about Arsenal, and travels whenever and wherever he can. Sahil is an unapologetic foodie and a film aficionado.