US Senator Al Franken questions Uber's privacy policies

Franken questions Uber's so-called 'God view' data tool

U.S. Senator Al Franken has waded into the latest controversy surrounding Uber, asking the car service app company pointed questions about its privacy policies.

The Minnesota senator and longtime comedian wrote in a letter to Uber cofounder and CEO Travis Kalanick that he is concerned about a "troubling disregard for customers' privacy, including the need to protect their sensitive geolocation data."

Writing as chairman of the Senate Subcommittee on Privacy, Technology and the Law, Franken referred to a tool that apparently lets some Uber employees track the location of customers that have requested car service.

"To whom is the so-called 'God view' tool made available and why?" Franken asked. "What steps are you taking to limit access?"

Franken raises 10 questions in the letter, which focuses on revelations that Uber executive Emil Michael suggested the company might try to dig up dirt on journalists who have been critical of it.

While an Uber spokeswoman has said such actions would violate the company's policies, Franken asked why Michael does not heed them and whether he was disciplined, as well as whether any other employee has been punished for violating Uber's privacy policies.

Franken also questioned how Uber handles sensitive information including accessing the data for "legitimate business purposes," as Uber has characterized in its privacy policy. He also wonders why customer information is apparently retained even after an account is terminated.

"Uber has a strict policy prohibiting all employees at every level from accessing a rider or drivers data," Uber spokeswoman Nairi Hourdajian wrote in a company blog post on Tuesday. "The only exception to this policy is for a limited set of legitimate business purposes. Our policy has been communicated to all employees and contractors."

The blog post followed a report on Buzzfeed that said Michael made comments at a New York dinner suggesting Uber could target a critical female journalist. Sarah Lacy, a technology writer who was the apparent target of this plan, wrote that Michael has since apologized.

Franken wrote that he expects answers from Uber by Dec. 15. Uber could not be immediately reached for comment.

Join the PC World newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags UberInternet-based applications and servicesgovernmentinternetUber Technologies

Our Back to Business guide highlights the best products for you to boost your productivity at home, on the road, at the office, or in the classroom.

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Tim Hornyak

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Most Popular Reviews

Latest News Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Azadeh Williams

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

A smarter way to print for busy small business owners, combining speedy printing with scanning and copying, making it easier to produce high quality documents and images at a touch of a button.

Andrew Grant

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

I've had a multifunction printer in the office going on 10 years now. It was a neat bit of kit back in the day -- print, copy, scan, fax -- when printing over WiFi felt a bit like magic. It’s seen better days though and an upgrade’s well overdue. This HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 looks like it ticks all the same boxes: print, copy, scan, and fax. (Really? Does anyone fax anything any more? I guess it's good to know the facility’s there, just in case.) Printing over WiFi is more-or- less standard these days.

Ed Dawson

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

As a freelance writer who is always on the go, I like my technology to be both efficient and effective so I can do my job well. The HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 Inkjet Printer ticks all the boxes in terms of form factor, performance and user interface.

Michael Hargreaves

Windows 10 for Business / Dell XPS 13

I’d happily recommend this touchscreen laptop and Windows 10 as a great way to get serious work done at a desk or on the road.

Aysha Strobbe

Windows 10 / HP Spectre x360

Ultimately, I think the Windows 10 environment is excellent for me as it caters for so many different uses. The inclusion of the Xbox app is also great for when you need some downtime too!

Mark Escubio

Windows 10 / Lenovo Yoga 910

For me, the Xbox Play Anywhere is a great new feature as it allows you to play your current Xbox games with higher resolutions and better graphics without forking out extra cash for another copy. Although available titles are still scarce, but I’m sure it will grow in time.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?