Uber’s Lifestyle Tracking and Privacy: “Living in the Future”?

business_ethics_highlights_2Uber’s aspiration to mine and use customer data to better serve users of the rideshare service raises familiar concerns about privacy. Is the customer’s participation voluntary? Do customer benefits flowing from greater coordination among Uber and its partners (e.g., Yelp, Snapchat, Pandora) in delivering useful services offset the costs in lost privacy? If this is “living in the future,” as Uber CEO Travis Kalanick maintains, is it a future we want to live in?

The march of information technology invites a couple of quick but uncomfortable observations about what we have heretofore understood as privacy:

(1) The privacy of information about us as persons is governed less by an on-off switch (private/not-private) than by a dimmer switch (more-private-to-less-private). We don’t want all information about ourselves to be unavailable to anyone. Nor do we want it all to be available to just anyone. (How can we give access to those we want to have it and deny it to those we don’t, while getting the things we value and care about—without spending our lives fiddling with privacy settings on smartphones and in browsers?)

(2) The privacy we enjoyed before the rise of information technology was perhaps less a function of norms or practices actively promoting respect for privacy as a value and more a function of the formerly prohibitive cost of compiling what was often public information into a detailed profile of (what we thought of as) our private lives. (How do we create an other-regarding respect for privacy out of what may mostly have been a self-regarding respect for a financial bottom line?)

What does privacy mean in the current context? >>>

LINK: Uber adds lifestyle tracking to ride-hailing app (by Leslie Hook for Financial Times)

Uber no longer wants just to deliver you or your dinner from point A to point B. Its new app aims to become an integral part of your daily life, including anticipating where you want to go, telling you where your friends are and suggesting things you may want to eat.

Uber’s app will start to predict where its users are likely to go at certain times, and make suggestions based on past trips to recommend the most convenient pick-up and drop-off points.

The new app will also work more closely with partners. Services from Yelp, a review site, Snapchat, the messaging service, and music-streaming app Pandora will become closely integrated. [Uber CEO Travis] Kalanick said news and weather services would be added soon.

Mr Kalanick said the new design, which will show riders an information feed while they are in the car, will “make you feel like you are living in the future”.

The voluntary service is likely to raise privacy concerns given its potential access to a large amount of data on its users, however.

“This is not a company that has a strong record on privacy and now they want to behave more like Google, which is worrying,” said Gus Hosein, executive director of Privacy International.

“They’re going to become an intelligence company, a mining company and all our data will end up in the US which has no strong privacy laws.” …

What do you think?

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