Story at a glance

  • Ridesharing giant Uber is working to provide user data to public health officials to track coronavirus cases.
  • Multiple public health officials across the globe have sought this data from Uber.

Uber Technologies Inc has reportedly introduced a new service that shares data with public health officials on drivers and passengers who may have had contact with someone infected with the coronavirus, Reuters reports Monday.

The contact tracing service will be provided for free and is reportedly being introduced to public health officials in countries where Uber operates. It will hinge on sharing Uber user data with health departments and be used to urge affected drivers and passengers to quarantine. 

Company insiders spoke to Reuters and said that information of either a driver or passenger can be accessed in a few hours. 


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As part of Uber’s company protocols, it works with public health authorities to share user data in the event that the company “has a good-faith belief that an emergency involving danger of death or serious physical injury to any person requires disclosure without delay of information relating to the emergency.” In these situations, the company can disclose necessary user data to help in the event of a public health threat.

The company notes that it will not share data deemed irrelevant to the public health issue at hand. 

Contact tracing, an epidemiological strategy to help identify carriers of COVID-19, has been slow to start in the U.S. The U.S. does not have a federally funded contact tracing service in place, and new reports suggest that President Trump’s administration is attempting to block funding designated for these programs in the next coronavirus relief legislation. 

Other countries, such as New Zealand, Australia, as well as some European countries, have been more coordinated in their contact tracing attempts, Uber’s chief of global law enforcement, Mike Sullivan, Uber’s chief of global law enforcement, told Reuters. 

As states struggle to successfully launch contact tracing initiatives, experts predict ride sharing data could be helpful in tracking virus carriers, mainly because of the large population that uses the car sharing service.

“This data could be potentially life-saving in cities where many people use those services,” Mieka Smart, an epidemiology professor at Michigan State University and a member of the COVID-19 contact tracing workgroup in Flint, told reporters.

Since the onset of the pandemic in the U.S., Uber has received approximately 560 coronavirus-related requests from public health officials across 29 countries, 158 of those being filed by public health officials in the U.S.

If an Uber passenger or driver is believed to have COVID-19 or have been exposed to the virus, the company and health officials are able to temporarily suspend or block them from using the service. Customers with a confirmed infection are automatically suspended from using the service for two weeks. 


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Published on Jul 20, 2020