Popular app-based taxi aggregator Uber has introduced a new, controversial update that will allow it to track the location of customers even when they are not using the service. The update allows the firm to track locations up to five minutes after the passenger has completed the trip, and even when the app is working in the smartphone background.
So if you are planning a secret rendezvous with friends or looking to visit some place that your nice family would be scandalized on hearing of, be careful! Your detours and gambols won’t be so secret after all.
Uber Claims The Update Aims To Smoothen The User Experience
According to Uber’s website, the update will end the frustration experienced by both drivers and customers when they are unable to locate each other correctly and will help ‘improve pickups, drop-offs, customer service, and enhance safety.’
‘We’re always thinking about ways we can improve the rider experience from sharpening our ETA estimates, to identifying the best pick-up location on any given street. Location is at the heart of the Uber experience, and we’re asking riders to provide us with more information to achieve these goals,’ said an Uber spokesperson to the Metro.
When using Apple devices, three location-based settings are usually available- ‘Never’; ‘While using the app’; and ‘Always’. However, Apple has given developers the flexibility to disable the ‘While using the app’ option, which Uber has used in its latest update, and thus effectively leaving only the other two permission options.
According to Uber, the expanded location data will improve pick-ups and drop-offs, particularly in markets where reverse geocoding is inaccurate. Uber also wants to make it easy for riders share their locations and expected arrival times with friends and family through the app through the new update. Sounds great in terms of security, but a real dampener for the privacy-inclined.
Decision Triggers Backlash From Users, Privacy Advocates
The decision has naturally triggered a furious backlash from customers, with complaints ranging from a lack of respect for user privacy to the app not working properly in Android devices unless the user clicks ‘Always’.
Uber now demands location data even when you're not using the app. Can't this be fixed by closing the app or restricting background refresh?
— Richard Goldberg, Esq. (@GoldbergLawDC) November 30, 2016
With the latest update, Uber now requires "Always" location permission. They set a new record for creepiness *and* arrogance. pic.twitter.com/cwt81yPslc
— Ben Sandofsky (@sandofsky) December 2, 2016
— Rand Hindi (@randhindi) December 1, 2016
I was @Uber 's biggest fan but hate their new update. Think I may have to make the switch
— Janine (@JanineCascio) November 27, 2016
Meanwhile, the Electronic Privacy Information Centre has lodged a complaint with the US Federal Trade Commission, describing it as ‘unfair and deceptive trade practice’. Uber is not new to issues related to user privacy and was earlier in January slapped with a $20,000 fine in New York after it was found that the company employees were using a ‘God View’ tool to locate and track riders in real time.
Will Uber Lose Customers After The New Update?
Despite outrage over the company’s latest controversial move, it doesn’t seem likely that the ride-sharing app will lose a huge number of customers. Sharing of location and pics through social media sites has become a daily staple with the youth and the ease of convenience is unlikely to force them into switching to other services.
Though we read about breach of privacy by organizations or the government every other day, the hard truth is that the lure of better and faster services that make our lives easy prevails the notion that privacy can be invaded through one way or the other. Moreover, would people go through all the hassle of manually entering their address every time they want to use the app? Does not seem so!