Uber Clueless On Women, Privacy, The Press And Taking The ‘God View’
An Uber passenger transportation company executive’s recent speculation that the company could invest a million dollars to dig up dirt on a critical journalist generated a firestorm of criticism that extends to the company’s sexism, privacy invasions and public safety practices.
The website Buzzfeed first reported on the comments by Uber Senior Vice President Emil Michael, at a swanky Manhattan event that Michael later gamely protested he thought was off the record. Michael reportedly was especially concerned about Sarah Lacy, editor-in-chief of the Silicon Valley website PandoDaily. Lacy had written a few weeks earlier about what she saw as Uber’s “sexism and misogyny,” such as running promotions in France that promised rides with “hot chick” drivers.
The Buzzfeed story prompted U.S. Sen. Al Franken (D-Minnesota), who chairs a Senate subcommittee focused on legal aspects of technology and privacy, to direct some pointed questions at Travis Kalanick, CEO of the on-demand car service that competes with taxis to drive customers around urban areas.
This is news. but Uber’s underlying arrogance isn’t new. The $18 billion firm has turned the exploitation of its own data into what Forbes magazine called a “party trick” by showing off its “God View,” displaying real-time information on where clients are waiting for a ride, and where Uber drivers are.
Forbes reports: “Julia Allison, an attendee at a launch party in Chicago in September 2011, says Uber treated guests to Creepy Stalker View, showing them the whereabouts and movements of 30 Uber users in New York in real time. She recognized half of the people listed and texted one of them, entrepreneur Peter Sims, revealing that she knew his current whereabouts.” Read Sims’ own blog post about the incident for an eerie first-person perspective.
The company’s justifiably bad press clips could fill a stretch limo. Just a few more examples:
- The Guardian: “Is Uber the Worst Company in Silicon Valley?”
- Wired: “Whose Privacy Will Uber Violate Next? Why Its Latest Bad Behavior Matters”
- USA Today: “Tech World Calls Out Uber for ‘Thuggish’ Behavior”
- New York Magazine: “Acting Like Sexist, Threatening Jerks Not Quite Working Out for Uber”
All of which pales in comparison to Uber’s denial of liability for the death of 6-year-old Sofia Liu, and serious injury to her mother and brother, when an Uber driver trolling for fares ran down the family in a San Francisco crosswalk last New Year’s Eve, and Uber’s fight against tighter insurance requirements at the California Public Utilities Commission and in the state Legislature.
San Francisco Chronicle reporter Carolyn Said puts all this in the wider context of consumer privacy in her Nov. 20 article, “Uber and Other Tech Firms Know Lots About You — Should You Worry?”
Unlike all those media articles, though, this story isn’t over – and you can help write it. Click here to send Uber a message.