Uber scores maximum points in EFF's data privacy ratings (just don't look too closely at the judging criteria)
Some great new for Uber! The Electronic Frontier Foundation has given the company its highest rating (six stars!) for digital privacy in a recent "who has your back" audit of sharing economy companies.
As ZDNet gushes, that’s a pretty remarkable achievement for a company that just a few months ago was accused of spying on its own users, threatening journalists and even operating a “god view” surveillance network and a “rides of glory” algorithm that tracked when its users had one night stands.
Remarkable is one word. Unbelievable is another.
A cursory glance at the EFF’s judging criteria shows the major problem with the “six star” rating, and ZDNet's reporting. Take a look:
Warrant for content. Uber requires a warrant before giving content to law enforcement, stating in its law enforcement guidelines:
Warrant for prospective location data. Uber states that it requires a warrant before providing prospective location data to law enforcement.
Transparency report. Uber has a published transparency report.
Law enforcement guidelines. Uber publishes guidelines explaining its standards for providing user information to law enforcement.
Inform users about law enforcement data requests. Uber promises to provide users with notice about law enforcement requests. It states in its law enforcement guidelines that it may do so, but does not make an affirmative promise to users:
Digital Due Process Member.Uber stands up for user privacy in Congress as a member of the Digital Due Process Coalition.
Notice a theme? Yep -- like so many libertarian-leaning organizations, the only privacy the EFF cares about is privacy from the government.
Now read ZDNet’s slathering coverage of the award:
It's a remarkable turnaround effort, given that just a couple of years ago Uber was "digging up dirt" on journalists, sabotaging its rivals, had a string of badly-behaved drivers (all while treating their drivers fairly poorly, sparking protests), and not to mention that old nugget of raising prices during natural disasters and emergencies.
Literally none of those privacy scandals involved Uber handing over data to the government. Every single one involved Uber breaching its users’ privacy all on their own.
The fact that we know Uber still monitors its users, has drivers behaving badly and even digs up dirt on journalists has absolutely no bearing on the EFF’s assessment. Similarly, the fact that Postmates, Get Around and Task Rabbit don’t have comprehensive policies on withholding data from the government means they earn zero stars, despite none of the above having behaved even nearly as badly as Uber when it comes to data misuse.