Uber’s location data background collections shouldn’t surprise anyone

The concept of privacy in the Digital Age is extremely complicated. Though privacy should be a basic human right, we freely give it up daily in pursuit of information, to make our lives more convenient, or simply to use online services and social media. One could even say that we more or less waive our right to privacy in the online, virtual world because of the way it is currently constructed. After all, there is always information to gather and profits to make.

One of the most important issues to consider is also a very simple one. How does one protect their privacy while still taking advantage of the technological advancements and services that can improve their lives? On Facebook, for instance, one could use a fake name and refuse to upload personal pictures while hunting down those that others upload to the service. Going even further, one could lie about every aspect in their profile and refuse to chat about anything personally identifiable. This experience, however, is not what Facebook is about. In this way, Facebook would become a completely different tool for entirely different purposes.

Companies in tech frequently take advantage of such things for various reasons. For instance, they may introduce new services. As another example, they might upgrade a core feature so that additional data is required for its full operation. One of the trends we have seen time and time again is that people tend to follow the mainstream, particularly when it comes to apps and online services. As such, it is far to stray away from the latest and greatest, even when they infringe on basic privacy measures.

In the latest update for Uber, the company altered its data collection methods. Previously, user location was only requested before pickup so that drivers could know where you were. However, no location data was collected during or after the trip. Now, however, this practice is set to change. In order to improve its services, Uber will now request access to background data before, during, and five minutes after a rider has used the service.

The reasons, as Uber explains, are many. First, access to richer background location data will allow the app to respond faster. For instance, it will be able to suggest nearby drivers as soon as you open the app. Furthermore, it will allow drivers to see far more precise pick-up and drop-off points. Currently, drivers often have to call prospective riders to determine their exact location. In addition to that, they often have to figure out the exact drop-off point in an instant, which might pose a safety hazard for both the drivers and the riders.

As one can plainly see, those are all perfectly valid reasons for background collection of location data. Information collection and analysis within the company will allow them to improve their services without actually investing into anything and the riders themselves will have to do nothing but continue using the service. In case you do not want appreciate this approach, however, all you have to do is turn location sharing off in your settings. Uber will be less convenient as you will have to enter everything manually, of course. So the question is, how much of your data are you willing to share in the end?

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