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Uber has responded to U.S. Senator Al Franken (D-Minnesota), defending its privacy practices and insisting that it is doing everything possible to safeguard its customers’ privacy.
“We care deeply about the privacy of the information we hold about our riders, and we recognize that the success of our business depends on maintaining their trust and satisfaction,” the letter from Uber to Franken (.pdf) states.
Franken last month sent Uber some pointed questions regarding statements that a senior executive, Emil Michael, made in November suggesting that the alternative transportation company, which has raised billions in venture capital and now has a valuation north of $40 billion, would be justified in digging up dirt on journalists covering the company, using Uber ride data to discredit them. Franken also asked about allegations that executives had improperly used a so-called “God view” that gave them information about the travel details of an Uber customer who was also a journalist.
Uber’s letter, signed by Uber’s privacy lawyer, Katherine Tassi, and released today by Franken’s office, states that Michael’s statements were contrary to the company’s policy.
“If Uber were to engage in any such misuse of journalists’ account information, we agree that it would be a gross invasion of privacy, and a violation of our commitment to our users,” Tassi wrote. “Thankfully, that is not the case.” Tassi goes on to explain that Uber publicly apologized for Michael’s comments.
The letter also provides some details about allegations, by a journalist, that Uber employees looked up data on her Uber account without her permission. There were, by Uber’s account, two such incidents, both relatively benign: Looking up her notifications in order to solve a problem where she wasn’t receiving them, and looking up her arrival time in order to meet her in the lobby of Uber’s office. The first was an ordinary customer service action; the second, Uber acknowledges, was inappropriate, and it has disciplined the employee, the letter states.
Many of Franken’s more specific questions went unanswered in Uber’s two-page letter. Franken, for his part, was unimpressed.
“While I’m pleased that they replied to my letter, I am concerned about the surprising lack of detail in their response,” Franken said in a statement. “Quite frankly, they did not answer many of the questions I posed directly to them. Most importantly, it still remains unclear how Uber defines legitimate business purposes for accessing, retaining, and sharing customer data. I will continue pressing for answers to these questions.”
For reference, here is Franken’s original letter to Uber (.pdf).
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