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Uber Responds To Al Franken’s Privacy Questions

Uber Responds To Al Franken’s Privacy Questions
[Photo: Flickr user Senate Democrats]

In November, following reports that Uber executive Emil Michael had threatened to “dig up dirt” on journalists who criticized the company, Senator Al Franken voiced some concerns about the company in a letter sent to Uber CEO Travis Kalanick. The letter contained a list of 10 questions, including “[t]o whom is the so-called ‘God View’ tool”—with which Uber employees were said to be able to spy on said journalists—”made available and why?” and “[w]as any disciplinary action taken as a result of Mr. Michael’s statements?” and requested that “Mr. Kalanick” deliver his responses by December 15.

Yesterday, Sen. Franken received a response from Katharine M. Tassi, Uber’s managing counsel for privacy. It leaves something to be desired.

The letter answers none of Sen. Franken’s questions directly and mostly reiterates the company line. “God View”—which, Tassi notes, is not what Uber actually calls the tool, but rather is merely an early name for it—is essential to Uber for a whole host of reasons, including driver and rider safety, and is used only by the people whose jobs are specifically concerned with the information it provides (operations and fraud prevention units, mostly). The company is bringing in a third party to review its data privacy program to see if there are any areas that should be improved, she says.

The letter mentions Michael’s comments only to say that he has apologized, and does not specify any disciplinary action that might have been taken.

Engadget reports that Franken is not pleased with this response from Uber, noting its “surprising lack of detail.”

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