Uber Beefs Up Privacy Controls

Faced with a fresh public relations crisis, Uber today unveiled new settings aimed at giving users more control over their data.

Among other changes, the app will add a "privacy settings" menu, which will house all privacy controls -- including controls over how Uber uses location data. Uber will also now allow people to delete their accounts. In the past, users couldn't do so without contacting customer service.

The move came the same week The New York Times reported that the ride-hailing company violated Apple's policies by fingerprinting people's devices, in order to identify devices that installed the app after deleting it.

Uber says it did so to fight fraud. But the revelation prompted critics to accuse the company of deceiving users.

"A reasonable consumer would expect and believe that deleting an app removes all aspects of the app’s software. Leaving a tracking function in place is plainly deceptive," Consumer Watchdog said in a complaint filed with the Federal Trade Commission.

Late last year, Sen. Al Franken (D-Minnesota) urged Uber to give consumers more control over their location data. At the time, the company's iPhone app asked users to always enable location-tracking -- even after they were 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 could still say they never want their location data tracked, but doing so made the service more difficult to use.)

Uber said in December that it wanted to be able to track people for up to five minutes after they have exited a car, in hopes of improving service.

The ride-hailing company has suffered other public relations crises recently. Last month, the Times reported that the company used a program called "Greyball" to prevent investigators from hailing rides.

Uber reportedly examined data like social media profiles and credit card information (including whether the cards were connected to a police credit union) in order to identify government officials. Uber then Greyballed those officials -- which involved serving them "a fake version of the app populated with ghost cars," according to the Times.

Soon after the report came out, the company said it would stop using the software.

Earlier in the year, CEO Travis Kalanick was pressured into quitting President Donald Trump's advisory panel after more than 200,000 Uber customers deleted their accounts as part of a protest against Trump's travel ban -- which was subsequently halted by the courts.

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