Apple’s iOS 11 Makes It Harder for Uber to Track Your Location

Updates to Apple’s mobile operating system help curtail Uber’s data mining.

byStephen Edelstein|
Apple’s iOS 11 Makes It Harder for Uber to Track Your Location

Last November, Uber introduced updates to its app that increased the amount of data the ride-sharing service collects. The updates were criticized for, among other things, allowing the app to send Uber location data even when it isn't in use. But privacy-conscious Apple users may have a way out. Changes implemented with the new iOS 11 operating system will give users greater control over location tracking, according to MacRumors. It's part of an ongoing effort by Apple to create a more privacy-friendly location setup, which Uber has managed to circumvent until now.

Last year, Apple added an option to iOS 10 that grants apps access to a user's location only when said apps are actually being used. However, Uber and a handful of other apps did not integrate that option, forcing users to choose between having apps never track their location—or always track it. Since Uber relies on location tracking to find rides, users had no real choice but to let the app track them all of the time.

But iOS 11 will apply the "while in use" location-tracking option to every app. That means Uber users will now be able to stop the app from accessing their location when they are not using it.

Uber has said it only tracks users' locations from the time they request a ride until about five minutes after drop-off, claiming this is necessary to maintain accuracy. But customers have complained that Uber's location tracking is invasive, and have discovered the app tracking them long after they get out of cars.

Uber's data-collection policies have caused at least one previous conflict with Apple. In 2015, CEO Tim Cook reportedly threatened to have the Uber app removed from Apple's App Store after the company discovered Uber was trying to track individual iPhones.

In addition to software that tracks customers, Uber has been accused of using a program called "Hell" to track drivers from rival Lyft, and is under investigation for using "Grayball" software to circumvent government regulators. These are just some of many Uber scandals this year, ranging from allegations of sexual harassment to an ongoing legal battle with Waymo over autonomous-car tech.