Uber settles with New York AG over privacy

Uber settles with New York AG over privacy

Uber will implement additional data security measures as part of a settlement with New York’s attorney general.

Attorney General Eric Schneiderman’s office announced on Wednesday night that the ride-hailing service had reached a settlement to end an investigation by the state into the way the company treats consumer and driver data.

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Under the settlement, the company agreed to limit the number of employees who can access ride data — detailing where passengers are in transit — to only those with a legitimate business purpose. The company will also encrypt that data and make it password protected.

Those provisions of the settlement resolve an investigation by the attorney general into the high-profile use by Uber employees of an internal rider-tracking tool that some in the company reportedly called “God View.” The feature presented employees with an aerial view of where the service’s drivers were at any given moment.

The existence of the tool went largely unknown to the public until BuzzFeed News reported that an executive had tracked one of its reporters and accessed her ride data without her permission. BuzzFeed was the first to report on the existence of the settlement on Wednesday.

“This settlement protects the personal information of Uber riders from potential abuse by company executives and staff, including the real-time locations of riders in an Uber vehicle,” Schneiderman said in a statement.

The agreement with the growing ride-hail concern also ends a second investigation into a data breach that occurred at the company in September 2014. The firm will pay a $20,000 fine for not telling Schneiderman’s office or its drivers about the breach in a “timely” fashion.

Concern about data privacy at the company, which is valued on paper at more than $50 billion, is just one of many regulatory challenges to face the firm in recent years. The company is also grappling with questions about the way it treats its drivers, for example, as well as municipal fights over the way its core service fits in alongside traditional taxi companies.

"We are deeply committed to protecting the privacy and personal data of riders and drivers," an Uber spokesperson said in a statement. "We are pleased to have reached an agreement with the New York Attorney General that resolves these questions and makes clear our commitment to best practices that put our community first.”