A privacy rights group filed complaint on Monday against Uber at the Federal Trade Commission over the ride-hailing service’s new policy that gives it the right to track users even if they’re not currently using the Uber app.
In the complaint, the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) in Washington, D.C., cites several privacy issues with the new policy it finds troubling.
Under the upcoming policy, the Uber app could collect precise location data about a customer’s smart phone, even when the app is running in the background or they have turned off their GPS location finder.
If the app isn’t on, Uber can figure out the user’s approximate location from their Internet address.
If the user permits it, the Uber app can access the user’s address book and use the names and contact information it finds there.
Uber spokeswoman Jessica Santillo said there was no basis for the complaint.
“We care deeply about the privacy of our riders and driver-partners,” she said. “These updated statements don’t reflect a shift in our practices, they more clearly lay out the data we collect today and how it is used to provide or improve our services.”
In an May 28 statement, Uber said that the 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.”
EPIC’s complaint says “this collection of user’s information far exceeds what customers expect from the transportation service. Users would not expect the company to collect location information when customers are not actively using the app.”
Uber says users will be able to choose whether to share their data with the company, according to its May 28 statement said.
However EPIC’s complaint says that forcing users to opt out of the data collection “places an unreasonable burden on consumers.”
It’s also not always easy to do. Users on iPhones will have the ability to give permission for these uses but later opt-out from the information sharing. However, that is not an option on Android phones, EPIC’s complaint said.
In its May 28 statement, Uber said that it doesn’t plan to begin tracking users location and accessing their contacts on July 15, but was merely exploring “potential new use cases.”
The complaint asks the FTC to investigate Uber’s business practices, stop the company from collecting user location data “when it is unnecessary for the provision of the service,” halt Uber’s collection of user contact list information and investigate other companies that engage in similar practices, among other things.