It's not the first time we've heard Uber makes disturbing use of the data it collects about its customers, but that doesn't make any new reveals any less troubling. In a court declaration made by former Uber employee Samuel Ward Spangenberg in October, more information has come out about the "God View" tool that had been investigated by Buzzfeed in 2014, allowing Uber employees to track the real-time location of any of their users.
The tool, Spangenberg claims, would let people working at Uber check in on "high-profile politicians, celebrities and even personal acquaintances of Uber employees, including ex-boyfriends/girlfriends, and ex-spouses," with little to no surveillance. And yes, that includes Beyoncé. Meanwhile, the company justified keeping that data just in case a "legitimate purpose" would arise one day.
Before being fired nearly a year after pointing out the company's security flaws to its key executives, Spangenberg acknowledges that Uber did make a few changes to the God View system — but instead of burning the evil spying tool to the ground, they renamed it "Heaven View," fired some of the employees that had used it, and started flagging searches for VIP customers.
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Yet an Uber driver can still look up their ex-partner to find out where they are... and the app's latest update implemented an extension of the time a user's location is being tracked by five minutes after the drop-off. So even when you're out of the car, Uber still knows where you are.
It's a worrying feature both for regular customers and celebrities, who are being increasingly harassed as soon as they step foot on the street. Here's to hoping that fans can learn to content themselves with the content their favorite celeb choose to divulge — and that we can all grab an Uber without starring in some twisted version of 1984.
Do you think it's OK for companies like Uber to track their users in real-time?