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.

Filed Under: data, government requests, ride share, surveillance, tracking
Companies: uber


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  • identicon
    bobob, 25 Nov 2019 @ 8:22pm

    Take a real cab, instead.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
    identicon
    Jyjon, 25 Nov 2019 @ 9:02pm

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 25 Nov 2019 @ 11:00pm

      Re: This is news?

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

      Triggered much?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Mike Masnick (profile), 26 Nov 2019 @ 12:19am

      Re: This is news?

      1. Yes, this is news. It's news that the number of gov't demands to Uber has increased.

      2. The post is not whining. You are.

      3. The author has a clue (more than that, actually) and nothing here is "fake news."

      4. Calling someone a "dweeb" for doing actual reporting does not make you look very good.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 26 Nov 2019 @ 5:50am

      Re: This is news?

      "instead of splashing fake news"

      I find this term to be interesting, how do you define it?
      Does it mean things that are not correct?
      Does it mean things that you do not like?
      How much investigation do you perform before coming to such a conclusion?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Norahc (profile), 26 Nov 2019 @ 7:04am

      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.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        btr1701 (profile), 26 Nov 2019 @ 11:12am

        Re: Re: This is news?

        I never have, either. I used to use cabs all the time in New York. You just wave your hand, one stops, you get in, it takes you where you want to go, and you get out.

        How does that cabbie have any info, other than a general description of my appearance, to give to the cops if they come asking?

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Dave P., 26 Nov 2019 @ 11:46am

      Re: This is news?

      Irrelevant and off-topic. NOT what the article was about. Did no-one ever teach you "proper" reading and comprehension? Oh - must have been the same school that Trump and Blue went to. All the signs are there.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    btr1701 (profile), 26 Nov 2019 @ 11:10am

    Welp, if you're a criminal and you don't want to leave records for the police detailing where you've gone, take a taxi.

    Problem solved.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 26 Nov 2019 @ 11:15am

      Re:

      "if you're a criminal"

      Everyone is a criminal, just a matter of whether you have been caught, prosecuted and convicted.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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