In a blog post, Uber managing counsel of data privacy Katherine Tassi said, “These changes would allow Uber to ask for access to a rider’s location when the app is running in the background and get people on their way more quickly. In addition, these changes would allow Uber to launch new promotional features that use contacts–for example the ability to send special offers to riders’ friends or family.”
The new data policy itself is not especially surprising or precedent-setting. Local monitoring when apps are running in background has been going on for some time. Foursquare uses that functionality, as do a host of other services. Leveraging phone contacts for promotional offers is also a standard feature of many mobile games and e-commerce apps.
Uber’s new policy will go into effect on July 15, and email notices will be sent to riders and drivers over the next few weeks. The company has faced uphill public relations challenges as it’s grown massively in size. Earlier this year, law firm Hogan Lovells conducted an external review of Uber’s privacy policies at the company’s request.