Typically speaking, it isn’t uncommon for major technology-based companies to release an update for their system and apps. But when a taxi service company releases an update that can expose your exact location, it’s to say the least, a little alarming.
Uber has recently launched a new version of their ridesharing application that has two new features. The first feature, the slightly alarming part, is how their application can now have custom Snapchat filters. You can unlock said filters simply by riding around in an Uber car, and they will apparently fill some previously unmet need to expose every single thing you do in a public environment, including those nice little selfies you take. Uber writes to the public “If you’re an existing Snapchat user and on an Uber ride, you’ll see a Snap card in the feed. Just select the type of filter you want to unlock, take your selfie, and swipe right. You can even use Uber filters with another Snap lens for double the fun.”
Uber’s second update – the really creepy part – is the highlight of this article. Uber’s new application allows you to turn your Uber-using friends into direct locations, otherwise known as destinations. And Uber is right there to explain how this process works for us – so that we can feel a little more comfortable about the whole process.
“Where are you? Where’s that again? These are common questions we ask friends and family when meeting up. If you’re catching up with friends when out of town, meeting your sister at the mall, or joining coworkers for drinks, now you can skip the back and forth. Just Uber directly to them!” The Uber process explains.
And how does this process work?
You simply sync your contacts with the updated Uber App and type in your friend’s name (in the “Where to?” box). Your friend or family member will receive a request message from Uber to provide their current static location. Once your friend or family member accepts the request, their location is used as your set destination and you can be on your way.
Uber continues, “To help your friends and family know when they can expect you to arrive, we’ll share your ETA with them after you’re on your way to their location. They’ll get updates just like if you decided to share your ETA on any trip. So skip the back and forth, forget the address, and get straight to whom you’re meting up with.”
Now, I won’t sit here and lecture how worrisome this is, and granted this type of technology could be extremely useful for some. But speaking freely, this is a major privacy nightmare just waiting to explode. Uber is essentially asking permission to track people in which aren’t even their own customers. Uber is promising everyone that these special ‘requests’ expire after 30 minutes, and they don’t keep any records of who you have contacted; however, the company has also pushed extremely hard to extract more information about their customers. And keep in mind, they are also facing lawsuits for how the company handles their existing data.
It was earlier this month that Uber rolled out their update to request the right to track their users – even when users aren’t using the service, and for up to five minutes after you have exited the Uber vehicle.
Uber is also facing a lawsuit from one of their former forensic investigators, Ward Spangenberg, in which he alleges that sensitive and personal information the company has already collected was made available to Uber employees. In return, the employees can use the information to “track high profile politicians, celebrities, and even personal acquaintances of Uber employees, including ex-boyfriends/girlfriends and their ex-spouses.
To make the privacy violations even worse, Uber, in 2014, was caught with their ‘God-view‘ non-anonymized, real-time information about the company’s users.
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