Since 2009, the New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission (TLC) has collected extensive trip data from NYC taxis, such as pick-up and drop-off data, distances, fares, payment types, and passenger counts. The data is published online as well. Now the TLC wants to do the same for ride-sharing companies, according to an article on jdsupra.com.
In January, the TLC proposed amendments to its driver-fatigue rules that would require ride-sharing companies also to provide more details on their trips, such as the date, time, and location of every drop-off. The TLC defends the amendment as a safety measure to ensure drivers are not working while fatigued and as a tool to help city officials investigate complaints about unsafe driving.
The TLC claims not to want the names, credit card numbers, or other personal data about passengers, and it pledges not to publish specific addresses online or make them available.
Uber says the amendment will result in serious privacy risks and would give the government “and anyone else who accesses the information a comprehensive, 360-degree view into the movements and habits of individual New Yorkers.” If made public, the data could be mined to reveal intimate details about where someone lives, worships, shops, and more.
Uber has urged its NYC customers to protest the proposed rule by posting on social media with the hashtag #TLCDontTrackMe. The company has told the TLC it could provide general trip duration data to help monitor for driver fatigue. Currently, Uber provides an online portal that anonymizes trip data to help city planners evaluate transport systems and infrastructure; it doesn’t believe the TLC needs the exact pick-up and drop-off locations.
Uber also states it doesn’t trust the TLC to protect the information from data breaches and demands from other agencies that may want to use it for unauthorized purposes.
The fact that Uber is resisting the amendments might seem ironic to industry watchers. Uber itself has been criticized for collecting too many details and for allowing employees to access the users’ accounts. Additionally, Uber once permitted its employees to use a tool called “God View” to monitor passengers’ trips. The tool displayed aerial views of the Uber cars on the road and personal data about the passengers. Upon being investigated by the state attorney general, Uber replaced that tool with one that did not reveal personal data. The current application lets the company access a passenger’s location data from the moment he requests a ride until five minutes after drop off.