Uber has announced plans to update its mobile app to help riders better control what data is being shared with the company. Rolling out over the next few weeks is an enhanced privacy settings menu that provides a central place to manage your sharing preferences, such as with location, contacts, notifications, and even to more easily delete your account.
Last November, the on-demand ride-hailing service redesigned its app with numerous enhancements, such as the ability to get to destinations based on your friend’s location, syncing with your calendar, and more. Along with the ability to collect so much data and use machine learning to provide the best routing and transportation options, Uber believes it’s giving riders an easy way to control what’s being seen by the app.
Of course, there have been a few recent incidents that could make riders concerned about what Uber sees — such as allegations around “fingerprinting,” a practice whereby developers could track users after they’ve deleted an app, something the company has denied doing. In addition, there have been complaints around not being able to prevent Uber from receiving location data, even when the app isn’t being used, as well as uproar over the infamous “God View” tool that allowed employees to track a journalist’s location.
Prior to the latest update, tools for managing rider data privacy were scattered throughout the app. Removing contacts from Uber could only be done within the advanced settings feature, while the option to delete your account was slightly buried under the account and payment menu in the help section.
With the updated privacy settings menu, riders can decide whether to share the location of their device anytime from when the app is opened until five minutes after the end of the trip. Additionally, there’s an option to allow location requests, which lets your friends ping Uber to find out where you are so they can meet you.
The app also lets you toggle whether you want to receive push notifications around account and trip updates, discounts, and any news from Uber.
Lastly, in light of bad publicity the company has received over alleged sexual harassment, driver harassment, and more, some riders may be inclined to delete their account. Previously, a support request would have to be filed with the customer support team and it would take time to delete. But now, Uber has made deleting a rider account easier and more automated. When the “delete account” option is selected, it will be deactivated right away and then permanently removed after 30 days. This also includes the account used for UberEats.
Uber has also reorganized the delete option placement so it’s where you’d think it would be: Privacy.
While the timing of this capability coincides with recent events, a company spokesperson told VentureBeat that work on this started more than a year ago since it required quite a bit of backend engineering work, such as new APIs and modifying the app’s user interface to facilitate account deletion.
“Making the Uber app simple and easy to use is always on our mind. And when it comes to protecting your information, it’s not only important to know your options but also how to use them,” wrote John Flynn, the company’s chief information security officer, in a blog post. He believes the new changes will provide riders “more choice and control over the information they share with Uber.”
Updated as of 7:37 a.m. Pacific on Friday: Clarified that account deletion is now automated and that Uber had worked on this problem for more than a year.