When Uber updated its mobile app last month, it forgot to mention a major change that could turn many customers off to the ride-hailing service.
NPR highlighted that the Silicon Valley transportation firm now collects user location data "from the time of trip request through five minutes after the trip ends."
"We do this to improve pickups, drop-offs, customers service, and to enhance safety," the company's online guide said by way of explanation.
Uber saves what it calls Trip-Related Location Data during a ride: from inception to completion, even when the app is running in the background. But it also obtains information when a user interacts with the application—to flag a taxi, compare fares, even update settings—as well as after the driver ends a trip.
In a discussion on HackerNews regarding this passenger tracking, a user claiming to be an employee of Uber explained that, "We were told the reason to track up to 5 mins after the trip is for fraud, ex if a driver doesn't end the trip when she is supposed to. and to figure out where the pick up spots for each address are. A large building may have multiple points where people get picked up or dropped off and knowing those points would be very useful for the drivers and riders."
If you're freaked out by the Uber gods following your every move—to the office, to the gym, to your illicit lover's home—there is the option to disable location settings.
Android users can visit Settings > Apps > Uber > "Permission" > toggle "Location"; on iOS devices, navigate to Settings > Privacy > Location Services > Uber > choose "Never."
Cutting off access, however, "will limit your ability to use certain features," Uber warned in its User Privacy Statement. It also does not limit the company's ability to collect trip location information from a driver's device, or derive approximate location from the user's IP address.
Uber did not immediately respond to PCMag's request for comment.
The new rider app, redesigned last month for the first time in four years, includes upgrades that learn from your routines and offer more options based on where you're going.