Uber Wants You To Know It's Tired Of Sharing Data With Regulators
In its first-ever transparency report, Uber has revealed that it has given federal and local U.S. agencies information on more than 12 million riders and drivers between July and December 2015.
This kind of report is not uncommon in the tech industry, but this particular one does something extra: It uses the report to take regulators to task for what Uber sees as excessive data sharing, making a case that it frequently tries to narrow the scope of requested information.
During this six-month period in 2015, Uber says it shared trip data with regulatory agencies, airport authorities and law enforcement agencies. Regulators received the majority of the data, which the report says involved 11.6 million riders and 583,000 drivers. The data Uber shared with airport authorities involved 1.6 million riders and 156,000 drivers.
Uber writes in a post on Medium:
"And while this kind of trip data doesn't include personal information, it can reveal patterns of behavior — and is more than regulators need to do their jobs. It's why Uber frequently tries to narrow the scope of these demands, though our efforts are typically rebuffed."
This report encapsulates Uber's ongoing fight with regulators. In January, the California Public Utilities Commission fined Uber $7.6 million for the company's "failure to fully and timely comply" with the commission's reporting requirements.
Uber does not specify how many riders and drivers were affected by disclosures to law enforcement officials, but the company says the government requested data related to a total of 613 rider and driver accounts. Of those requests, Uber's report shows it "fully" complied with 31.8 percent of the requests and produced some data for 84.8 percent of the cases.
Uber says "a large number" of law enforcement requests were related to investigations of fraud and stolen credit cards. The report does not specify how many of these cases were related to rape and sexual assault. Uber has been under scrutiny for its role in protecting passengers from these kinds of attacks.
An Uber spokesman told Fortune that the company will now be releasing a transparency report every six months. The ride-hailing service joins more than 60 companies — including Google, Facebook, Amazon and Apple — that regularly release such reports.
"There seems to be much more sharing of personal data for a less important purpose, which raises privacy flags for me," Jim Harper, senior fellow at the libertarian think tank Cato Institute, tells the Verge.
In its report, Uber also specifies that the company has not been compelled by the FBI to disclose data on an issue of national security, nor has it received any court orders under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.
Uber writes on Medium: "We hope our Transparency Report will lead to a public debate about the types and amounts of information regulated services should be required to provide to their regulators, and under what circumstances."
Naomi LaChance is a business news intern at NPR.
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