Categories & Search

Uber Riders: Choosing Convenience or Privacy

What Consumers Should Know About Uber’s New Location Settings

In a recent update to its widely used application, Uber has implemented a change in location settings that some users are not happy about.  Before the update, users could limit Uber’s ability to track their location to “only while using app.”  But the new update strips users of that option. 

To use the updated app, an Uber user must consent to one of two location settings: “always” or “never” to allow Uber to track the user’s location.  By selecting “always,” users allow Uber to track their location: (i) when the app is open; and (ii) from the time of the trip request through five minutes after the trip ends, even if the app is running in the background.  By selecting “never,” users prevent Uber from tracking their location; instead they will be prompted to manually enter a pickup address.  This is a significant change from the old location settings, which allowed Uber to track a users’ location, but only while they were using the app. 

So why the change?  An Uber spokesperson said it is seeking to “improve the rider experience from sharpening [Uber’s] ETA estimates to identifying the best pick up location on any given street.”  The new location setting, allowing Uber to track users immediately after they exit the car, will enable the company to better investigate complaints and safety issues associated with drop offs, according to Uber.

Users and privacy groups have come out in strong opposition to the update, calling the change aggressive and unnecessary, and even expressing concerns that tracking a user after a ride ends may undermine a user’s attempt to maintain his or her privacy after being dropped off by Uber.  A leading privacy group, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, has already asked Uber to revert back to the former location setting, allowing the company to track users only when they are actually using the app.

Though many users are upset with the new setting, it is unclear whether Uber has seen an actual decline in use since the update.  We will continue to monitor any developments.