An update pushed out to the Uber app has introduced a new feature which allows the service to track users five minutes after they have already been dropped off.
Before this shift, Uber could only collect location information when users requested for a ride, and during the actual service. However, according to a report by TechCrunch, through this newly implemented feature, the app will now have the ability to pinpoint the precise location of its passengers as long as it is running in the background.
The feature will only be used to further improve its drop-off and pick-up services, Uber claims. First, the company wants to cut down on confusion during pick-ups, in the instances when the app does not give an accurate location of the customer. Also, the tracking can reportedly help enhance customer safety by monitoring how frequently passengers cross the street after a drop-off, by helping detect whether they were dropped off in a risky area.
An Uber spokesperson shared a few statements regarding this move:
“We’re always thinking about ways we can improve the rider experience from sharpening our ETA estimates to identifying the best pick up location on any given street. Location is at the heart of the Uber experience, and we’re asking riders to provide us with more information to achieve these goals."
Despite Uber's claims that the update is perfectly safe when it comes to privacy, and will only be used for improving its services, some of its customers were not happy with the change, which urged them to voice their concerns out on Twitter:
Although the change was only recently implemented, Uber had already announced tracking enhancements for the app last year. Back in June 2015, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) already received an official complaint from the research and advocacy group Campaigners at the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) regarding the controversial update. The organization states that the expansion of data collection threatens the privacy of Uber's customers. The FTC did not take any further action, however, which led to Uber finally pushing out the said feature.
Katherine Tassi, Managing Counsel of Data Privacy at Uber, stated in the 2015 announcement that users will be in control, and they have the choice whether to share their location with the app or not.
For now, users of the app can opt-out of the new tracking feature by turning off location services through a phone's settings. Also, after every ride, users can choose between always or never being tracked to control their privacy.