Location Tracking: Safety Precaution or Risk?

Media Division | January 3, 2017

Mobile technology has become a very important and relied upon technology in our modern day society.  This has brought several concerns over the years in regard to apps and corporations receiving data from the public’s mobile devices.  Such is the case currently with the ride hailing app, Uber.  As of the newest update of Uber, it requests your location data from your phone at all times.  Plainly meaning that Uber will be able to track a person who has the Uber app on their phone at any time.

The location data of a person was previously only shared when the Uber app was open.  This was a useful feature that facilitated the driver and passenger finding each other for pick up.  Whereas, the consistent sharing of location data came under immediate scrutiny from the public.

Uber’s Reasoning for the Permissions Change

Uber claims that it will not actually be tracking location data all of the time, but rather, they want slightly more tracking time for the improvement of service.  They state the reasoning for the change is that due to device permissions, they cannot simply request a few more minutes and can only ask for “always.”  This was the information that Uber had given TechCrunch, in which they also said, “Specifically, Uber wants access to a rider’s location from the moment she requests a ride until five minutes after the driver drops her off, even if the app is not in the foreground of her phone. Previously, Uber would not collect a rider’s background location during the trip, or her location after drop-off.”  Uber also stated to them that the purpose was to improve drop offs, pick-ups, loading time, and to find out whether passengers were being dropped off in unsafe locations.  As well as giving them the ability to track how often a passenger has to cross the street after drop off, which they consider a safety hazard.

This obviously raises concern from public who do not want their location data consistently tracked.  There have already been reports of users having their location data requested by the app when they have not asked for a ride or even used Uber in weeks.  Uber’s bold move has already prompted a Federal Trade Commission complaint from the Electronic Privacy Information Center.  Currently, there is no foreseen change in the apps new permissions, so it leaves it up to users to decide whether they grant the request or not.

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