Uber to kill feature that tracks users after rides

Greg Nash

Uber is ending its controversial practice of tracking riders for up to five minutes after they’ve ended a trip using the app.

A new update of the app, which the company says is expected to be announced Tuesday, will revert back to allowing riders to share “location only” data solely when they are actively using the app, Uber confirmed to The Hill, after it was first reported by Reuters.

The update will initially only be available to iPhone users, but the company says it intends to later include Android phones as well. 

{mosads}The company introduced the tracking feature in November, giving riders either the option to let Uber track them after rides or turn off location services completely, which forced users to manually input pickup locations.

Some customers and privacy advocates railed against the policy at the time. Uber defended it, saying that the extra data would help them give more accurate ETAs and suggest better pickup and drop-off locations.

Uber’s chief security officer Joe Sullivan told Reuters that the company had made a mistake by introducing the tracking feature without better explaining how it would help riders. He told the outlet that if the company sought to track riders like this in the future, it would explain the value of doing so and allow riders to opt in.

Sullivan noted that Uber had endured a “lack of expertise” in regard to privacy.

Uber’s decision to change its policy comes two weeks after it settled with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) over claims that it made deceptive privacy and data security claims. Uber will now be independently audited every two years for the next 20 years in compliance with the FTC settlement.

The move also comes as the company takes steps to improve its embattled reputation, which has taken a hit after a series of issues that led to former CEO Travis Kalanick stepping down.

Uber on Sunday picked Expedia chief executive Dara Khosrowshahi to take over for Kalanick as CEO, reports indicate.

This story was updated at 11:03 a.m.

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