Franken on Uber: 'Serious concerns'

Ride-hailing application Uber is taking heat from Sen. Al FrankenAlan (Al) Stuart FrankenOvernight Tech: Senate panel subpoenaed ex-Yahoo chief | Twitter gives all users 280 characters | FBI can't access Texas shooter's phone | EU wants tax answers from Apple Week ahead: DHS nominee heads before Senate | Ex-Yahoo chief to testify on hack | Senators dig into election security Feinstein: Sessions should re-testify on Russia meetings MORE.

The Minnesota Democrat on Wednesday accused the company of showing “a troubling disregard for customers’ privacy” after a series of reports that a top executive supported investigating journalists and monitoring people’s rides. 

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Franken has “serious concerns ... about the scope, transparency and enforceability of Uber’s policies,” he wrote to CEO Travis Kalanick.

The letter follows a report in BuzzFeed this week that top Uber executive Emil Michael discussed hiring investigators and reporters to dig up dirt on journalists who write critical stories about the company. 

Just a day later, a journalist with the news outlet described how executives had used a “God view” tool to track her movements in one of the company’s cars without her permission. 

Reports about the secretive “God view” feature have circulated on the Web for weeks, but the new report prompted fresh outrage at the company, which has been criticized for its treatment of contracted workers, its tactics of muscling out competition and concerns about the safety of its riders.

In response, the company outlined its data privacy policy, which include a promise not to pry on people’s data except for “a limited set of legitimate business purposes.” 

The spokeswoman explaining the policy, however, only included a handful of examples of what those purposes were, not the full list, Franken pointed out.

“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,” he wrote, while demanding a response by Dec. 15.

Franken is the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Privacy, and has been a vocal critic of companies that seem to use consumers data unfairly. He has previously introduced a location privacy law and worried about new automobile features that store people’s data or send it elsewhere.