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  • 11.19.14

Uber Says Its Business Depends On Trust–So Why is It Behaving Like This?

The company is dealing with some trust issues.

Uber Says Its Business Depends On Trust–So Why is It Behaving Like This?
[Photo: Flickr user Alex]

Near the end of BuzzFeed’s report on Monday about Uber executive Emil Michael’s caustic dinner rant was a small aside that proposed Uber has a problem keeping user data private.

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On Tuesday, there were more allegations that the ride-share company invaded customers’ privacy: Uber employees reportedly warned San Francisco magazine editor Ellen Cushing that higher ups may have been snooping on her profile as she prepared for a story. And the company has, on at least one occasion, incidentally exposed identifying characteristics of its customers with a feature called “God View,” a powerful and creepy feature that we took a close look at yesterday.

God View allows Uber to track passengers in real-time using GPS data with an omniscient overhead map, and it has been used by CEO Travis Kalanick as a presentation tool and party trick to wow outsiders. As of yesterday, God View even had, according to the Washington Post’s Philip Bump, this Easter egg tucked into its code:

The line has since been removed.

With all these new considerations, on Wednesday morning Uber published an update to its privacy statements. The company notes that “Uber has a strict policy prohibiting all employees at every level from accessing a rider or driver’s data. The only exception to this policy is for a limited set of legitimate business purposes.” (Which apparently includes cocktail soirees.) The post continues:

Uber’s business depends on the trust of the riders and drivers that use our technology and platform. The trip history of our riders is confidential information, and Uber protects this data from internal and external unauthorized access. As the company continues to grow, we will continue to be transparent about our policy and ensure that it is properly understood by our employees.

So Uber seems to understand that customer trust is important to its success and is committed to transparency. Which is probably why yesterday, employees like new Uber GM Josh Mohrer—who is being investigated for allegedly opening a BuzzFeed reporter’s files without her permission—were still openly tweeting, giving outsiders a rare glimpse inside a company that has raised an astounding $1.3 billion in capital. What was the mood like after a long day of outside criticism?

The above tweet has since been deleted.

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Update 10:43 a.m: An Uber investor weighs in:

Makes you think.

About the author

Chris is a staff writer at Fast Company, where he covers business and tech. He has also written for The Week, TIME, Men's Journal, The Atlantic, and more.

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