Taken for a linguistic ride
"California's Public Utilities Commission and the New Orleans Department of Safety and Permits."
These aren't "law enforcement" agencies? Hmmm...
Uber has produced its first transparency report and called for a public debate over the type and amount of data it is obliged to provide to the authorities. The taxi app company reveals in its report that it received 33 requests from American "regulatory agencies" that covered no less than 11.6 million customers and 583,000 …
"The CPUC regulates privately owned electric, natural gas, telecommunications, water, railroad, rail transit, and passenger transportation companies. The CPUC serves the public interest by protecting consumers and ensuring the provision of safe, reliable utility service and infrastructure at reasonable rates, with a commitment to environmental enhancement and a healthy California economy. We regulate utility services, stimulate innovation, and promote competitive markets, where possible." - http://www.cpuc.ca.gov/
I would say that is a law enforcement agency. They are after all the agency responsible for ensuring that Über complies with state law relating to passenger transportation companies.
>The CPUC serves the public interest by protecting consumers and ensuring the provision of safe, reliable utility service and infrastructure at reasonable rates, with a commitment to environmental enhancement and a healthy California economy.
And they are checking the fares paid by all 12m passengers to make sure they haven't been overcharged? How nice of them.
I know "who benefits" leads to all sorts of conspiracy theories, but I get really nervous when governments start slurping vast amounts of very precise data on people.
Stop collecting this kind of data. That goes for the government and Uber. The way things are going, riding a bicycle while not carrying a mobile phone is going to get you arrested as a suspected terrorist and economic subversive.
Do the Uber Drivers realise that Google is a major investor? That other abuser of privacy.
Does Uber actually exist simply to collect data or also as a trojan for future Google self drive cars.
Are the Autonomous Google Wagons really about scraping more info about the public?
Uber also complains that it is required to hand over more information because it operates over the internet, noting that the requests "differ or exceed what regulators demand from offline companies."
That's because you have that information, guys. The reason an 'offline' taxi company doesn't have to hand over the details of passengers is because it doesn't (generally) collect that data.
Are these Uber mouthpieces even aware of the hypocrisy in complaining that their use of mobile phone 'apps' and online booking, payment and processing shouldn't result in them being treated differently while simultaneously inisting that heir use of mobile phone 'apps' and online booking, payment and processing means they should be treated differently?
Putting that aside, however, there is indeed an important question here. Several actually. The first is: why is this information needed by these authorities? Anonymised trip data sure, and employee (driver) data is also understandable. Both of these - and certainly the latter - are kept by normal 'offline' taxi companies and they are relevant to all manner of compliance matters. But actual customer (passenger) details cannot possibly be relevant.
If that was the case - that identifiable customer data was critical to some function or regulation - then non-online companies (like ordinary taxis) would be required to collect and record this information.
It's a case of "it's available so we'll grab it" and that mentality is one of the core reasons that we (in most 'western' democracies) are subject to such unprecedented and unrestrained surveillance. If data exists, there is the expectation that it is fair game and should be handed over as a matter of course. The questions of privacy and necessity and proportionality are never even considered but those agencies and authorities who make the requests.
On the business side, this mindset is just as entrenched and just as pernicious. Customer data of any and all types is collected and recorded and measured and compared. It is marketed to and sold to third-parties and often stored with little regard for the security or privacy.
Having every part of our lives recorded and analysed has somehow become just the done thing and it seems that many people simply accept it.
I am not suggesting that Uber could feasibly operate without collecting and recording customer data but certainly their use of that data goes far beyond what is required to provide the service. But, whatever the case, the government and their agencies and authorities do not see any problem with demanding this data, despite it not being necessary for them to do so.
Instead of big rubber stamps, every request for data like this should go through a rigorous and tightly-controlled process where the specific information being requested is identified and scrutinised to ensure that only the data that is actually necessary to a specific, identified and justified function is obtained.
Access to personal data must be seen as exceptional, not the norm.
Rant over. For now . . .
"Local authorities could use that data to greatly increase the efficiency of their services, which could eat into the Uber bottom line."
Like how? Check to see where people really want to go, and put more bus-stops there? That will make the buses stop far more often, making the duration for a typical trip very long. That sure will drive up ridership!
Well if they found that lots of people were making Über trips that would require three different buses if travelling by bus, they might change the bus routes or add new ones. In the UK, most buses run from suburbs to city centre, however, increasingly, trips are from one suburb to another suburb, as businesses are moving out from the city centre to industrial estates.
[...] taxi companies were obliged to provide a paper log with rough pickup and dropoff locations; now they are told to provide GPS coordinates.
I'm all for privacy, but is there really *that* big of a difference between "Corner of East 75th Street and Park Ave" and "40.773006, -73.962301"?
Whilst it is not an insurmountable problem, "40.773006, -73.962301" lends itself much more readily to data-mining than "Corner of East 75th Street and Park Ave" which first has to be parsed to the former format or similar before it can be processed. It is the inevitable error rate in that parsing that is the issue.