Remember the marriage-breaking bug that one user's Uber app experienced, leading to his wife divorcing him? A new report claims it was not that much of a bug after all.
The New York Times recently ran an article about a meeting that happened some two years ago between Apple CEO Tim Cook and Uber CEO Travis Kalanick. This particular meeting was allegedly prompted by Uber doing something called "fingerprinting", which meant each iPhone would get tagged with an individual ID. This ID would still be there after the Uber app was uninstalled, and the device was wiped, in order to prevent fraud, the firm says. Not only was this a breach of Apple's terms and conditions, it was also deliberately obfuscated from the Cupertino-based firm by Uber.
Now, the concept of obfuscating information is not at all foreign to Uber, as the ride-sharing service uses something called 'Greyball' to get around restrictions in places where authorities do not allow services like it to operate. It was a different matter on this occasion though, as unless it would curb its privacy-invading practice, Uber could very well see itself kicked off of the App Store, in turn losing access to millions of customers.
Crossing a line like this was apparently not only an Uber thing, but also something its CEO, Mr. Kalanick, engaged in. According to the New York Times, he "openly disregarded many rules and norms, backing down only when caught or cornered", and "flouted transportation and safety regulations, bucked against entrenched competitors and capitalized on legal loopholes and gray areas to gain a business advantage". This is also reflected in some of the interactions the CEO has had with employees, after which the executive has apologized.
Regarding this thorny privacy issue, Uber said, in a statement to Engadget:
"We absolutely do not track individual users or their location if they've deleted the app. As the New York Times story notes towards the very end, this is a typical way to prevent fraudsters from loading Uber onto a stolen phone, putting in a stolen credit card, taking an expensive ride and then wiping the phone—over and over again. Similar techniques are also used for detecting and blocking suspicious logins to protect our users' accounts. Being able to recognize known bad actors when they try to get back onto our network is an important security measure for both Uber and our users."
What's clear is that the shady practices have been minimized, as the Uber app remains available in the App Store.