Uber Hires Chief Privacy Officer, Data Protection Officer

Is Uber finally cleaning up its act?

Hemant Mishra/Mint

Uber has hired two new executives to oversee data protection. The ride-hailing company has named Ruby Zefo as its first chief privacy officer, and Simon Hania as data protection officer, according to Reuters.

Zefo, who will start her new job Aug. 6, comes to Uber from Intel, where she was chief privacy and security counsel. Hania joins Uber from TomTom, where he was vice president of privacy and security.

Uber has a spotty record when it comes to protecting driver and passenger data. The company previously admitted to a software tool called "God View" that allowed it to track its own drivers, and has been sued over alleged use of a counterpart called "Hell" to track drivers working for rival Lyft. Last year, Uber disclosed a 2016 breach that exposed the data of 57 million users.

The company already has privacy experts working in departments like engineering and legal, according to TechCrunch. The chief privacy officer is expected to help organize the work done by these individuals into more robust company policies for privacy and data protection.

The data protection officer position is mandated by the European Union's General Data Protection Regulation. In filling that role Hania will report directly to Uber chief legal officer Tony West, according to TechCrunch. The website reports that Uber previously used an outside firm in the Netherlands, rather than an in-house executive, to comply with the EU regulations.

The new hires indicate that Uber is getting serious about overhauling its data policies, but only time will tell how things work out. After a year of scandals that included the ouster of CEO Travis Kalanick, Uber has implemented a number of policy changes under new CEO Dara Khosrowshahi. But results have been mixed.

While Khosrowshahi's new approach has yielded some positives, such as getting Uber's London operator license renewed, and dropping mandatory arbitration for sexual-assault claims against the company, efforts to address discrimination have been less successful. Uber is under federal investigation for alleged gender discrimination in hiring and pay, and two executives recently resigned over claims of racial discrimination.