California Bill Would Force Uber To Guard Passenger Privacy
by Carolyn Said, San Francisco Chronicle
Some Uber employees tracked trips of prominent people through the company’s “God View tool.” One executive threatened to do opposition research on journalists. Some reports allege that stolen Uber customer information is for sale on the Dark Web.
Now, a bill pending in Sacramento would force Uber, Lyft and other ride-hailing companies to follow stricter privacy rules. AB886 specifies that the smartphone-ordered ride services cannot disclose any data on passengers except to combat fraud or other crimes. It also says the companies must destroy all personal information when customers cancel their accounts.
“We want to put the consumers in the driver’s seat about who owns their data and personal information, instead of having them take a back seat,” said bill author Assemblyman Ed Chau, D-Monterey Park (Los Angeles County). “These technologies have revolutionized the way we travel, but these companies are collecting a lot of sensitive user information, much of it personally identifiable.”
A spokeswoman for Lyft declined to comment, but pointed to a letter by tech industry lobbying group the Internet Association, which states that the bill would “establish a host of prescriptive rules that would micromanage a specific mobile app technology without any corresponding benefits, at the expense of one of California’s most innovative industries and the larger mobile app economy.”
But advocates said that isn’t good enough.
AB886 is due to be heard Monday by the Assembly Utilities and Commerce Committee. If passed there, it would go to the Privacy Committee on Tuesday.
Uber privacy is also a concern at the national level. Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., has written to Uber CEO Travis Kalanick several times about how the company safeguards passenger data.
“Americans have a fundamental right to privacy, which includes the right to know who is getting access to their personal geolocation information and the ability to control with whom that information is being shared,” he wrote.
AB24, another bill pending in Sacramento, would compel Uber, Lyft and similar companies to perform fingerprint background checks on drivers and implement random drug and alcohol testing.