Opinion: Citizens Demand ‘Uber’ Privacy

Opinion Citizens Demand ‘Uber’ PrivacyThe following is a guest contributed post by Gary S. Miliefsky, CEO of SnoopWall Inc.

The world is waking up.  Riots in France.  Over Uber, you ask?

Yes, the app you conveniently downloaded on your smartphone to help you get a ride from where you are to where you want to go, usually at a lower cost than a taxi and more convenient in some cities than hailing a cab, is also a brilliant piece of SPYWARE.

Yes, let’s call it what it is. Just review the permissions it asks for on the Google Play store.

Uber app by Uber Technologies Inc., Version 3.55.0, can access:

  • Identity – add or remove accounts; find accounts on the device; read your own contact card.
  • Contacts – read your contacts.
  • Location – find your approximate location (network-based); or precise location (GPS and network-based).
  • SMS – receive text messages (SMS).
  • Phone – directly call phone numbers.
  • Photos/Media/Files – read the contents of your USB storage; modify or delete the contents of your USB storage.
  • Camera – take pictures and videos.
  • Wi-Fi connection information – view Wi-Fi connections.
  • Device ID & call information – read phone status and identity.
  • Other – receive data from the Internet; modify system settings; use accounts on the device; view network connections; full network access; control vibration; prevent device from sleeping; read Google service configuration

In addition, without knowing in detail what’s in them, updates to Uber may automatically add more capabilities within each group.

Now, I would agree the riots in France were mostly over UberPop, their French app with more than 400,000 downloads in the country, stealing business away from the taxi industry in violation of French law. But it’s also been reported that the French are upset with Uber’s data collection and privacy policies.

Like most “growing too fast to think straight” companies, Uber joins the ranks of Google, Facebook and Twitter in wanting to know everything they can about everyone.

It’s a growing trend where the marketing vice president of these companies convinces the CEO that “consumer analytics” is where it’s at. Collecting as much information about everyone is just going to make the product better, they say.

Without concerns for our privacy, they collect and mine data without us knowing when, how and why? Ultimately, these companies feel if we the people (or in this case “sheeple”) are willing to go along with the pack and just give away our right to privacy for convenience, well, shame on us, not them. It should be the other way around.

Slowly, there is an awakening. It’s happening now in France, all over Uber. It’s happening in New York City, all over Uber. What did Uber do in NYC to spark this rebellion?  Uber has been using data mining to attempt to rally public sentiment against the proposed cap on Uber’s drivers in New York. They actually send unsolicited political text messages to those in the Geolocation of NYC trying to rally support.

Creepy. Very creepy. This is the tip of the iceberg of what Uber can do because of all the data it has collected. Remember last year, when Uber NYC executive Josh Mohrer tracked technology reporter Johana Bhuiyan on two occasions using a feature known as “God View?” What a great internal name for the SPYWARE dashboard of Uber.

God View is available to all employees at the car-sharing service and allows them to see customer activity, such as where a person wants to be picked up.

Marketing VP and developers at Uber, what were you thinking? Shame on you for building a SPYWARE network instead of a private car service.

Maybe this is the beginning of a pivotal moment – when consumers start to question companies with God Views that collect data on them that violates their privacy. Maybe soon people will demand a PRIVACY ride service and even be willing to pay a slight premium per ride so that their personally identifiable information (PII) won’t be gobbled up into a corporate database that is never secure enough against the next hacker attack, and that’s managed by companies with staff willing to use that data in ways consumers would never have approved.

Uber, get out of our contacts list. Stop tracking us. Anonymize and encrypt your “God View” system and rename it to what is – Consumer SPYWARE Dashboard. Your marketing VP needs to read “1984” by George Orwell and realize that “we the people” no longer are willing to become a product in your database.

Do a great job. Offer a great service. Don’t steal our privacy or creep on us anymore.