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Uber reaches settlement over inadequate data protection for customers

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Uber Technologies Inc agreed a settlement with regulators last month after reportedly failing to protect customers from having their personal information accessed by company employees.

Investigations into the popular alternative taxiing service also found that Uber had perhaps been less than honest with the public about their data protection commitments.

Uber, now worth over £13 billion and offering services in 46 countries, have been accused of simply not caring about the data protection rights of their customers, instead simply focusing on profits. They’ve been accused of simply aiming to “amass the greatest database of consumer habits that the world has ever seen.”

Uber’s ‘God View’ tool

According to multiple newspaper sources, Uber developed a tool called ‘God View’ which allowed for tracking all Uber customers in real time. Bizarrely, executives allegedly bragged about the function and allegedly used it in parties to impress others.

It’s thought that individual customers were identifiable through the tracking app on their devices. In the quest for more information, Uber’s Senior Vice President, Emil Michael, publicly expressed his desire to spend $1 million to obtain more information about customers to enhance customised services. Uber previously wrote about “Rides of Glory” on their blog, whereby analysis of certain data can apparently help to identify one night stands…

In invasion and / or misuse of privacy?

All of this information is undoubtedly valuable to the company. However, customers may not be happy to be treated like data objects who can be analysed for maximising profits, all the while being unaware of what’s going on. Conversely, Uber maintains they’ve upheld their responsibilities in accordance with relevant data protection laws.

But there are those who argue that this is an invasion of privacy and that customers are subject to a violation of their rights under data protection laws. You’d think that Uber customers should be able to use Uber’s services without worrying that their app is constantly tracking them unnecessarily…

When users download the app, the terms and conditions provided suggest that user’s data may be used to “enhance or otherwise improve the Services.” You could argue this is, perhaps, vague.

What the regulators said…

Regulators reportedly said:

“Uber failed consumers in two key ways: First by misrepresenting the extent to which it monitored its employees’ access to personal information about users and drivers, and second by misrepresenting that it took reasonable steps to secure that data.”

As part of the settlement, Uber has reportedly agreed to audit monitoring for two decades, meaning that every two years an independent privacy audit will be conducted to check Uber is living up to its data protection duties.

It’s believed that there will be no financial penalty.

Regulators further warned:

“…even if you’re a fast growing company, you can’t leave customers behind; you must honour your privacy and security promises.”

IMPORTANT: advice on this page is intended to be up-to-date for the 'first published date'.

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First published by Author on September 28, 2017
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