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Uber shared 14 million users’ info with the government, transparency report says

TechCrunch TechCrunch 12/04/2016 Kate Conger

Uber released its first-ever transparency report today, following in the footsteps of other major technology companies and detailing the kinds of information it shares about riders and drivers with the U.S. government.

Between July and December 2015, Uber disclosed information about 14 million users to law enforcement and regulatory agencies, according to its report. Most of the data — ride info for more than 12 million users — went to regulatory agencies.

Uber used the disclosure to push back against regulatory oversight, claiming in a Medium post that regulators like the California Public Utilities Commission often require far more data than is necessary and can sometimes compromise riders’ privacy.

“In many cases they send blanket requests without explaining why the information is needed, or how it will be used. And while this kind of trip data doesn’t include personal information, it can reveal patterns of behavior — and is more than regulators need to do their jobs,” Uber wrote in its post. “We hope our Transparency Report will lead to a public debate about the types and amounts of information regulated services should be required to provide to their regulators, and under what circumstances.”

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Uber determines a rider or driver to be personally affected if the company is required to disclose specific GPS coordinates of a pick-up or drop-off location. In cities like Austin, where Uber lists zero drivers or riders affected, it is because the regulatory agency did not require specific coordinates but accepted aggregate rider data.

This isn’t Uber’s first sparring match with the California Public Utilities Commission over rider and driver data. The CPUC fined Uber $7.6 million in January for failing to comply with its reporting requirements about accessible cars, the number of rides requested and accepted per ZIP code, and driver safety information. Uber paid the fine but plans to appeal the decision.

Law enforcement requests make up only a small portion of the total number revealed by Uber — 469 in total from state and federal agencies. Uber says most of the data sent to law enforcement is for investigations into credit card theft and fraud. The company also introduced a “warrant canary” into its transparency report, stating that, as of today, it has not received a National Security Letter or FISA court order.

Uber plans to continue to release transparency reports on regulatory and law enforcement requests every six months, and hopes to expand the reports to include information from outside the U.S., a spokesperson confirmed.

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