Sen. Al Franken Stands Up For Privacy By Pressing Uber to Enforce Its Privacy Policy

Senator Al Franken (D-MN)  is not impressed with Uber (a car service) senior vice president for business Emil Michael’s embarrassing overshare. On November 17th, Michael revealed to members of the media – including a BuzzFeed editor –  ideas to get retribution for bad press by doxing journalists and using Uber’s  customer data to target journalists.

Uber ran away from these suggestions after the public backlash and claimed that such actions would be in violation of the company’s policy. This was not too comforting when in order to prove this, the company accessed a BuzzFeed news reporter’s information without her approval.

So it’s not surprising to see privacy advocate Senator Franken on the warpath. After noticing that the privacy and data collection policies cited on Uber’s website differ from their public claims and in fact do not support their public claims, Franken  is demanding that the car service company, which uses a GPS-based smartphone application to connect passengers with drivers, get real about their privacy policies and data collection practices.

In a letter (read here) Franken asked for specific steps the CEO has taken to ensure that its privacy policies are communicated and enforced. The Democratic Senator also called Uber out for their  ”God view”, a tool widely available to Uber corporate employees, which allows them to track the locations of customers who have requested service.

Franken wrote, “I am writing in regard to reports of recent comments and actions by top Uber executives concerning journalists. The reports suggest a troubling disregard for customers’ privacy, including the need to protect their sensitive geolocation data.”

“This raises serious concerns for me about the scope, transparency, and enforceability of Uber’s policies. Moreover, it is unclear what steps, if any, you have taken to ensure that your policies are adequately communicated to all employees, contractors, and affiliates, and to ensure that such policies are fully enforced.”

Senator Franken is a lonely voice in the U.S. Senate speaking out for consumers’ privacy and rights.  Uber’s behavior prior to this incident was none too stellar, after it paired with a French escort service as drivers for a promotion — while marketing its services to women who need a safe ride home. Seeing as they had created a predators’ dream, a female journalist was not impressed and for this, the Uber exec was musing about ways to get even with her by outing her personal information. Totally says trustworthy.

Uber fail. Instead of gathering dirt on journalists’ private lives when the issue is the professional conduct of Uber, maybe Uber would be better off just dealing with the negative conduct in an honest and transparent way.

Uber needs to clarify their policies and find a way to earn back the trust of their customer base. In order to do that, they need a privacy policy that is enforced like HIPPA laws.  They should have a no tolerance policy for violations.

7 Replies to “Sen. Al Franken Stands Up For Privacy By Pressing Uber to Enforce Its Privacy Policy”

  1. I sometimes get the feeling that we are seeing a climate of terrorization towards women as well as minorities,and it may well reach an unprecedented pitch by 2016.

  2. They must want bankruptcy. What company comes out and says that nationally that they are going to track and spy on their customers?

  3. I think I’d wait for a taxi rather than put my privacy on the line with this outfit. Talk about Orwellian.

  4. This concerns me, as a couple of people I know use this service. I believe, too, that Uber should be regulated by something that would be the equivalent to HIPAA.

  5. If you’ve ever spent time in a hospital, you’ll know HIPPA is honored more in the breech, than in fact. ‘Semi-private’ rooms make privacy a joke. As for Uber, there are lots of people looking for work who could out think this him.

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