Uber Settles With FTC Over Data-Privacy Protections

Uber agrees to bolster consumer data privacy after FTC probe
Tech Uber agrees to bolster consumer data privacy after FTC probe AP file

16 August, 2017

The FTC investigation began following news reports in November 2014 about Uber employees using a mode called "God view" to track journalists.

In a statement, Uber said it has steadily improved its data security guidelines since 2014 and welcomed the agreement with the FTC.

The FTC also said Uber failed to implement basic security practices, such as two-factor authentication, that could have kept Uber's driver data from leaking. "In 2015, we hired our first Chief Security Officer and now employ hundreds of trained professionals dedicated to protecting user information".

Uber agreed to settle a US investigation that found the ride-hailing company deceived consumers by failing to protect their sensitive data. But Ohlhausen said the FTC could impose a fine if the company violates the terms of the settlement.

Despite that promise, between August of 2015 and May of 2016, Uber allegedly failed to follow up on alerts about the "potential misuse of consumer personal information", according to the FTC. The company agreed to implement a programme that addresses privacy risks related to new and existing products and services and protects the privacy and confidentiality of personal information. The FTC believed that Uber did not sufficiently observe when and how employees accessed data for both its drivers and its riders. But the FTC claimed the company did not keep its word.

The company must also undergo regular third-party audits for 20 years, certifying that it has a privacy program that meets the FTC's requirements.

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In its complaint, however, the FTC alleged Uber abandoned the system within a year and thereafter "rarely monitored" the use of God View by employees.

And for six months during that time, Uber "only monitored access to account information belonging to a set of internal high-profile users, such as Uber executives", the agency found. The first stemmed from the company's announcement in 2014 that it had developed an automated system to monitor employee access to consumer personal information.

Under the agreement between Uber and the FTC, Uber can not misrepresent its access to consumers' personal information or how it secures that data, and must implement a privacy program and submit to audits of that program, the agency said.

This reflects Uber's latest attempt to move past its troubled history and recent crises, which have been marked by the departures of top executives, Travis Kalanick's resignation as CEO as well as an investigation into what some called a toxic workplace culture. In May 2014, the names and licence plate numbers of 50,000 Uber drivers were exposed in a data breach.

The settlement will be subject to public comment for one month before becoming final.

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