Law Enforcement Agencies Bumping Up Demands For Uber Customers' Data

from the GPS-is-made-of-people dept

If it generates records — especially third-party records — the government is going to come asking for them.

Not only is Uber’s ride-hailing service subject to a bizarre and inconsistent set of state-level regulations, it’s also a storage facility containing plenty of data about people’s travels. Taking an Uber may keep a rider’s license plate off the ALPR radar, but the government can still track people’s movements by asking Uber for customer data, which presumably includes where they traveled and when.

Zack Whittaker of TechCrunch says government agencies are taking more of an interest in Uber’s data collection, according to the company’s latest transparency report:

The ride-hailing company said the number of law enforcement demands for user data during 2018 are up 27% on the year earlier, according to its annual transparency report published Wednesday. Uber said the rise in demands was partly due to its business growing in size, but also a “rising interest” from governments to access data on its customers.

Uber said it received 3,825 demands for 21,913 user accounts from the U.S. government, with the company turning over some data in 72% of cases, during 2018.

This is the Golden Age of Surveillance, whether certain law enforcement figures want to admit it or not. More services require users to create accounts linked to real names and other verifiable information, like credit cards or bank accounts. Everything feeding into Uber’s data pile is available without a warrant. Bank records are still obtained with subpoenas, given no additional Fourth Amendment protections by recent Supreme Court decisions hinting that when the Third (Party) meets the Fourth (Amendment), it’s not as simple as it used to be.

Still, warrants are being used. The transparency report shows warrants are used about a fifth of the time. Without more granular detail, it’s tough to say what law enforcement agencies feel is warrant-worthy. Subpoenas are the most popular way to obtain info with exigent circumstances (“emergency”) following close behind.

There will soon be even more the government can collect from Uber. The company plans to start recording (audio only at this point) rides for driver and passenger safety. These recordings will belong to Uber, which means the government only needs to approach the company to perform post facto eavesdropping. Conversations in an Uber vehicle will become third-party records.

Maybe courts will view these as the modern equivalent of a phone booth conversation. Maybe they’ll view them as non-private conversations — the equivalent to jailhouse calls as long as riders and drivers are informed ALL CONVERSATIONS ARE RECORDED. Until then, it’s a grey area law enforcement is free to explore.

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Companies: uber

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Comments on “Law Enforcement Agencies Bumping Up Demands For Uber Customers' Data”

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Jyjon says:

This is news?

So you’re whining because Uber follows the law and logs rides.

Seriously, cabs log every ride, at least they’re supposed to. That’s how all legit companies work. You log your rides and turn in the sheet at the end of the day, the dispatchers also log calls and who got the ride.

There was cops at the barn a few times a month going thru the records looking for people who were in the area of some crime they’re investigating.

Get a clue about what you’re reporting instead of splashing fake news all over the place like a dweeb.

Norahc (profile) says:

Re: This is news?

Seriously, cabs log every ride, at least they’re supposed to. That’s how all legit companies work. You log your rides and turn in the sheet at the end of the day, the dispatchers also log calls and who got the ride.

Ive never had to give my cab driver my name, phone number, or email address to have them take me to my destination.

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