Uber Will End Post-Trip Tracking of Passengers

Is this the start of a new, less-stalkerish Uber?

Andrew Matthews/PA Wire

Uber will remove a controversial feature from its app that allowed the ride-sharing company to track user locations for up to five minutes after each ride, even if the app was deactivated, according to a Reuters report.

Joe Sullivan, Uber's chief security officer, confirmed the change, which will begin rolling out Tuesday. The updated software will initially be available of iPhones only, but Uber is working on an Android version, Sullivan said.

The change means Uber users will only have to share location data when they are using the app. An update to the app that launched last November added more data-mining provisions, and prevented customers from limiting when Uber collected location data. Users could only choose between letting Uber collect data all of the time, or never collect it.

Uber previously claimed that the practice of collecting location data after riders exited the car was necessary to ensure both accuracy and the physical safety of customers, but the practice was heavily criticized. With iOS 11, Apple forced Uber (and all other apps) to add an option that only collects location data while the app is in use.

Uber said it never instituted post-trip tracking for iPhone users, and suspended it for Android users, according to Reuters. Sullivan, the chief security officer, said the mistake was collecting data without making it clear what value Uber would offer in return. If Uber decides to try collecting post-trip location data again, it will try to explain why that information is valuable, and allow customers to opt out, he said.

The policy change comes two weeks after Uber settled a U.S. Federal Trade Commission complaint that the company failed to protect the personal information of drivers and riders. Uber agreed to conduct an audit every two years for the next 20 years to ensure compliance with FTC rules.

Uber is trying to pull itself out of a quagmire of scandals that culminated in the ouster of CEO Travis Kalanick. Expedia CEO Dara Khosrowshahi was chosen as Uber's new CEO Sunday, though the location-tracking software update is not related to the CEO change, Sullivan told Reuters.