On July 15, Uber is putting a new privacy statement into effect, and part of it is raising some eyebrows.
A few paragraphs down in the new policy, under the heading "Collection of Information", you'll find this:
Location Information: When you use the Services for transportation or delivery, we collect precise location data about the trip from the Uber app used by the Driver. If you permit the Uber app to access location services through the permission system used by your mobile operating system (“platform”), we may also collect the precise location of your device when the app is running in the foreground or background. We may also derive your approximate location from your IP address.
If that sounds a little weird to you, you're not alone. Privacy advocates EPIC (Electronic Privacy Information Center) have filed a formal complaint with the Federal Trade Commission over Uber's stated intentions to collect location data – even when users aren't actively using the app.
EPIC also takes issues with Uber's handling of users' contacts information, mainly this:
if you permit the Uber app to access the address book on your device through the permission system used by your mobile platform, we may access and store names and contact information from your address book to facilitate social interactions through our Services and for other purposes described in this Statement or at the time of consent or collection.
Uber provided a statement to Ars Technica, saying that this new policy is simply a clarification and that the company does not collect background data – but it might want to later.
"There is no basis for this complaint. We care deeply about the privacy of our riders and driver-partners and have significantly streamlined our privacy statements in order to improve readability and transparency. These updated statements don't reflect a shift in our practices, they more clearly lay out the data we collect today and how it is used to provide or improve our services," said an Uber spokesperson.
"We do not currently collect background location data. We may want to start doing that in order to provide new useful features, such as providing faster loading time when the user opens the app (currently, there is a lag time between opening the app and seeing the available cars in your area during which time the app is trying to figure out your location). We are not currently doing this and have no plans to start on July 15. If we move forward with this, users- will be in control and can choose whether they want to share the data with Uber."
Image via Uber, Facebook