Uber doing away with the post-trip tracking feature that had drawn the ire of users is a sign of the torsion privacy concerns create when faced with the demands of a data-driven world. An update to the ride-hailing app last year forced users to either agree to always share location data or never let Uber collect it—the latter option meaning that one couldn’t use the app. The company initially tried to brazen out criticism saying that it needed the permission to always collect data so that it could track riders for up to five minutes after a trip ended—that, it believed, would ensure riders’ physical safety.
It is clear that such data collection would not only be useful to build a consumer profile of the rider but also give insight into personal aspects that the rider may not be comfortable sharing. However, Uber was later forced to suspend the post-trip tracking feature for Android users. The change in thinking at Uber comes against the backdrop of Uber settling a US Federal Trade Commission complaint that company failed to safeguard users’ data and dodged questions over its efforts to prevent snooping by its employees. As the acuity of delivery gets more and more data dependent, it is a given that individual privacy will be the trade-off for availing efficient services.
With perhaps this in mind, Uber also told Reuters that if it decides in the future that tracking location after a trip has been completed is valuable for the user, it will seek to explain what the value is to users and allow them to change settings accordingly. Such data mining also presents a challenge for regulation. This is where the recent privacy judgment of the Supreme Court could show the way—citing a group of experts, the SC talked of data collection- and purpose-limitations. Such a regime could give individuals greater control over how companies use their data without summarily barring data collection.