Lyft co-founder John Zimmer welcomes "God View" criticism
Lyft co-founder John Zimmer said during tonight's PandoMonthly interview that he welcomes the increased scrutiny of his company's data collection practices resulting from the scandals that have embroiled Uber and the lackadaisical approach it takes to protecting customer privacy.
The revelations about Uber have revolved mostly around the company's use of its so-called "God View" to look up the ride histories of journalists and high-profile passengers. The company cared so little about potential abuse of this data that it allowed a job applicant -- someone who wasn't even an employee -- to use the tool for a whole day after he was given access during an interview.
But Uber isn't the only company that can, and will, access that data. Re/Code's Liz Gannes said in a blog post that a Lyft executive used a similar tool during an interview, and BuzzFeed reported in November that the company had stayed silent about Uber's controversies because it was busy updating its own processes, presumably because it wanted to avoid facing a similar backlash.
The effort was unsuccessful. On Monday, Sen. Al Franken sent a letter to Lyft in which he asked questions similar to those he asked Uber, showing that the two companies are going to be facing similar scrutiny. Zimmer said during tonight's interview that he welcomes the questions and that the issue is "a fine thing to be talking about" so Lyft has decided to "engage in the conversation."
Zimmer also offered an explanation for why tools like "God View" need to exist: customer service. If a member of Lyft's customer support team gets a call from a consumer claiming that their ride's fare was charged incorrectly, he said, "They need to go in and check to see how that ride was done." The trick is making sure that access isn't provided to all employees or abused.