Uber wants to know where you go - after you leave its cars

Uber raises privacy concerns with location tracking update

Uber needs to know where to pick you up and where to drop you off, but it also wants to know where you go next. 

The ride-booking tool has concerned privacy campaigners and passengers alike with an update to its app that allows Uber to access your location even when you're not actively using it. 

"Uber collects your location data from the time of the trip request through five minutes after the trip ends, including when the app is in the background," the update notification reads. "We do this to improve pickups, drop-offs, customer service, and to enhance safety."

Users need to click "Allow" for Uber to be able to collect the data, but if they choose to opt out it turns off all location services used by the app, meaning you'll need to enter your location in manually in order to use Uber's existing features. Uber points out that you can also turn off location data via your phone settings, though that will affect all of your apps, including Uber's own app, so you'll again have to type your location in manually. 

"Uber should only collect the data that they need in order to provide a service. If they decide to increase the data they collect, they need to be very clear about why it is needed," Pam Cowburn, communications director at Open Rights Group, told IT Pro. "Rather than giving customers the stark choice between always and never sharing data with Uber, they could give more tailored choices that puts us in control of our data."

Paul Bernal, lecturer at UEA Law School, said the move wasn't a surprise. "It's the sort of thing that their systems would enable and the sort of information that Uber would expect to find valuable," he told IT Pro. "Uber, like many tech companies, find that the most compelling reason to do anything, and don't think of privacy implications unless forced to do so."

Uber users were also irritated by the move, with some taking to Twitter to claim they'd switch to rival Lyft. One Uber rider said she found the update "worrisome" as she's twice "given a fake destination to a leering male driver".

Others pointed out that you can turn on location tracking when booking an Uber, and then turn it off after you depart the car to avoid the privacy intrusion, and some noted that there's no point worrying, saying Uber tracking is no worse than Google.

"Uber tracking five minutes after dropped off is least of someone's worries if they're bothered by this type of thing... Google etc," noted one user

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