Last December, Uber garnered no shortage of criticism for rolling out a feature that allowed the app to track customers for five minutes after a ride had ended. Now, after a series of crises throttled the company throughout the year, Uber on Tuesday announced that it would scrap the controversial tracking program, citing the need for greater customer transparency.
The company's chief security officer, Joe Sullivan, explained to Reuters that the change will bring back Uber's original policy of sharing user location info only when using the app. Uber is expected to make the switch for all iOS users within the week, although the company hasn't clarified when Android customers can expect their apps to update.
When it instituted the contentious measure, Uber cited safety as the primary impetus. So too, was a need to get customers to their destinations more quickly: "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," a company spokesperson told Thrillist last year. Privacy advocates, on the other hand, called the measure intrusive and asked Uber to curtail the program.
Sullivan readily admitted that Uber bungled the issue of transparency by not letting customers know exactly when their location was being tracked. Uber customers previously enjoyed the option of sharing their location data only when using the app. But that option was eliminated under the policy, giving customers the option to always share their data, or never do so at all. Needless to say, it gave Uber a pretty broad mandate to pilfer private customer details, at least in the minutes immediately after using the service.
The latest Uber news comes after a maelstrom of widely publicized controversies rocked the company, culminating in the unceremonious departure of CEO and founder, Travis Kalanick. Expedia CEO Dara Khosrowshahi is expected to replace Kalanick at the company's helm, and will no doubt face a steep challenge in steering it away from its scandal-laden reputation.