At its very core, Uber is a location based service, but following the app’s most recent update -- which asks users to collect their location data even when they’re not hailing a ride -- many are seeing an unnecessary violation of privacy.
Uber’s update, initiated last month, includes a sharp divergence from the company’s original policy of only tracking driver location as to better streamline estimated wait times. Now, Uber is asking users permission to track their whereabouts for five minutes after the app has been deactivated, and isn’t making it easy for customers to say no to the policy.
At the moment, the issue primarily affects Apple users: As The Verge notes, iOS customers are typically queried whether they’d like an app to track their location, and are given the options of “Always,” “Never,” or “While Using the App,” based on their personal preference. With the aid of Apple, Uber simply eliminated the “While Using the App” option, effectively giving the app stronger ability to monitor one’s location, or rendering its geo-location capabilities basically useless.
"We’re always thinking about ways we can improve the rider experience from sharpening our ETA estimates to identifying the best pick up location on any given street," an Uber spokesperson told Thrillist in an email. "Location is at the heart of the Uber experience, and we’re asking riders to provide us with more information to achieve these goals."
The controversy doesn’t necessarily end there, though. Uber maintains the ability pilfer data anytime the app is turned on, meaning that if it’s hanging out in your phone’s background, the company has the power to track where you are, even if you’re in no need of a ride. Uber was quick to maintain that it won’t do this, and the extra five minutes it can spend scanning user data is meant to improve the app’s accuracy.
With that in mind, if you're concerned about being tracked by yet another app, it's time to check your settings.
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Sam Blum is a News Staff Writer for Thrillist. He's also a martial arts and music nerd who appreciates a fine sandwich and cute dogs. Find his clips in The Guardian, Rolling Stone, The A.V. Club and Vice. He's on Twitter @Blumnessmonster.