Uber's Location Tracking Aims to Add Safety at the Cost of Privacy

The popular ride-sharing app Uber launched a new update, allowing the company to track its users' location at all times, even when it's not in use.

The company says it only plans on tracking users from the point of a ride request, and for five minutes after the completed trip.

An Uber spokesperson told NBC Connecticut it will help them improve safety and customer service by letting the company know when users have to cross the street after getting dropped off, among other things.

In a statement, the spokesperson said:

"We're always thinking about ways we can improve the rider experience from sharpening our ETA estimates to identifying the best pick up location on any given street. Location is at the heart of the Uber experience, and we're asking riders to provide us with more information to achieve these goals."

Privacy advocates aren’t sold. One Washington, D.C.,-based group, the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) filed a complaint with the FTC in 2015, citing public officials' concerns about the app's then-proposed access. EPIC called on the agency to "halt Uber's collection of user location data when it is unnecessary for the provision of the service."

To that, Uber says the company doesn't have a choice. The operating systems on both Apple and Android phones don’t allow apps to specify a time frame of when they want to track their users.

To disable Uber's tracking on an iPhone, tap:

  • Settings
  • Privacy
  • Location Services
  • Uber
  • Never

On an Android, tap:

  • Settings
  • Under Devices, tap "Applications"
  • Uber
  • Permission
  • Location

Keep in mind that users will have to manually enter a pickup location when location services are disabled.

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