Uber’s public relations crisis, which began with an executive threatening to investigate a journalist’s private life in retaliation for a critical column, has snowballed into a user privacy debacle that has even Sen. Al Franken raising questions.
Change is coming
“The trip history of our riders is important information and we understand that we must treat it carefully and with respect, protecting it from unauthorized access,” the company said in a Thursday blog post.
But respect wasn’t really high-priority for Uber until the company got caught. Drivers were able to access God View as recently as nine months ago, according to Motherboard, and higher-ups in local offices are using their power to peer into journalists’ trip history. At best, the company has been totally careless when it comes to privacy. The company is investigating the New York exec, but may soon find itself under investigation.
Sen. Al Franken wrote a scathing letter to Uber CEO Travis Kalanick this week with a list of questions about user privacy:
Franken demanded responses to his questions by Dec. 15.
All of this scrutiny is making Uber look terrible, but it’s good for the app’s customers, most of whom didn’t realize the company could trot out their exact location in an Uber car on a map as a party trick.
Will the current scandal force Uber out of business? No. It’s unlikely that anyone at the company will even be fired (or resign) over this week’s dust-up. But Uber is under intense pressure to change its ways, and the current crop of startups who ask for your data and do little to protect it will have to follow suit or risk being compared to the worst offender.