Uber Should Give Users More Control Over Location Tracking, Lawmaker Says

Sen. Al Franken (D-Minnesota) is asking the ride-hailing company Uber to give consumers more control over their location data.

Uber's recently updated iPhone app asks users to always enable location-tracking -- even after they've been dropped off. In the past, the company gave people the option of allowing their location to be tracked only while they were using the app. (Customers can still say they never want their location data tracked, but doing so makes the service more difficult to use.)

Uber says it made the change in order to track people for up to five minutes after they have exited a car in hopes of improving service. The prior policy "created challenges with pick-ups, where having the riders' exact location is very important, and drop offs, where knowing building entrances can create safer drop-off experiences," a spokesperson says.

But Franken says the company should let consumers decide whether information about their locations will be collected and used by the company.

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"While the stated justifications for this update appear well-intentioned, I strongly believe that American consumers deserve a meaningful opportunity to decide for themselves the fate of their personal data,” Franken wrote to Uber CEO Travis Kalanick today.

"To restore users’ control over their location data, I urge you to consider implementing in-app options that are distinct from operating system-level permissions," he added.

Franken also said Uber should, at minimum, revise its privacy policy to make clear that it will only collect location data for up to five minutes after a ride has ended -- as opposed to reserving the ability to collect that data indefinitely "always."

The new privacy policy "should be updated to explicitly state that Uber collects precise location information only when a user is interacting with the app, when a user is on a trip, and for up to five minutes after a driver has ended a trip," the lawmaker wrote.

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