Uber is spying on driver smartphones -- privacy invasion or reasonable safety tool?


If you give an inch, people can take a mile. This old adage can be good advice when it comes to privacy. Some people may decry a privacy advocate's efforts with the cliche "if you have nothing to hide" argument, but that is poor logic. Look, even if you are following the law, your privacy should be looked at as sacred. Fight for it, y'all.

Today, Uber announces that it is tracking its drivers' smartphone data. At first glance, you might be up in arms. With that said, the company is claiming it is for the benefit of its customers. So, is it right, or wrong?


"Gyrometers in phones can measure small movements, while GPS and accelerometers show how often a vehicle starts and stops, as well as its overall speed. If a rider complains that a driver accelerated too fast and broke too hard, we can review that trip using data. If the feedback is accurate, then we can get in touch with the driver. And if it's not, we could use the information to make sure a driver's rating isn't affected", says Joe Sullivan, Chief Security Officer, Uber.

Sullivan further explains, "over time, we hope to use technology to improve safety proactively. For example, if gyrometer data shows that drivers are constantly moving their phones around, we can offer them mounts to fix the problem. Or we could use technology to determine that the average South Florida Uber driver goes 50MPH and take 50 minutes to drive from Miami to Fort Lauderdale. For drivers who go much faster on that stretch, we can ask them to curb their enthusiasm".

On the surface, this sounds all well and good. It can keep customers safe by detecting careless drivers. With that said, it is also a bit naive. OK, yes, drivers should follow the law, and go the speed limit. Of course on the highway, it is not typical for traffic to move that slow. Everybody speeds a little bit, and customers will likely get angry at drivers for doing 55 miles per hour while traffic is moving at 70.

As I said earlier, if you give an inch, sometimes people take a mile. This is a slippery slope. Am I saying Uber will abuse this? No. But the possibility is there to be exploited.

So what do you think, BetaNews readers? Is this spying an invasion of privacy or a reasonable safety tool? Sound off in the comments.

Photo credit: Felix Mizioznikov / Shutterstock

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