US Senator Al Franken unhappy with Uber answers on user data

PCWorld News

U.S. Senator Al Franken isn’t satisfied with Uber Technologies’ response to privacy questions he asked the ride service.

The chairman of the Senate Subcommittee on Privacy, Technology and the Law wrote said Uber dodged some of the questions he raised about customer data.

“Quite frankly, they did not answer many of the questions I posed directly to them,” Franken wrote in a post Monday.

“Most importantly, it still remains unclear how Uber defines legitimate business purposes for accessing, retaining and sharing customer data. I will continue pressing for answers to these questions.”

Last month, the Minnesota senator and longtime comedian had written a letter to Uber cofounder and CEO Travis Kalanick in which he said he is concerned about a “troubling disregard for customers’ privacy, including the need to protect their sensitive geolocation data.

Franken asked Uber how it handles customer data for “legitimate business purposes,” as Uber has characterized in its privacy policy. In its response, posted on his website, Uber’s managing counsel for privacy, Katherine Tassi, said the company retains most of the information collected from users in their accounts, and retains them until an account is settled after cancellation.

Tassi also said that Uber’s so-called “God View” tool, which allows staff to see the locations of cars, is essential for ensuring that vehicles on the service are properly distributed in a city. When shown to third parties, a “presentation” view is used and rider data is inaccessible, she added.

Franken’s letter raised 10 questions and focused on revelations that Uber executive Emil Michael suggested the company might try to dig up dirt on journalists who have been critical of it.

The questions came after a report on Buzzfeed that said Michael made comments at a New York dinner suggesting Uber could target a critical female journalist. Sarah Lacy, a technology writer who was the apparent target of this plan, wrote that Michael has since apologized.

In the latest controversy surrounding Uber, France’s Ministry of the Interior said Monday that its UberPop service, which hooks up private drivers with passengers, will be banned in France from Jan. 1, when a new taxi law comes into force.

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