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We’ve become used to hearing about scandals and controversy surrounding Uber over the last few years, but on this occasion it’s rival Lyft that’s making headlines for all the wrong reasons. The ride-hailing company is looking into claims that its staff abused access to customer information.
Lyft confirmed to The Information it had started an internal investigation into the alleged incidents, which were brought to light through an anonymous online tip from a current or former employee.
The person claimed that Lyft staff used the company’s customer insight software to spy on riders. This included finding out where current and former partners were being picked up and dropped off, tracking any Lyft passengers they found attractive, and to see which riders left bad reviews.
Some staff also used the software to look up the personal info of top executives and celebrities.
“I’ve heard at least one employee brag about having Zuck’s phone number from using our data,” the person said, using the nickname for Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg. (Mr. Zuckerberg did not have a comment for this article.) “Another employee has bragged about collecting the info of Hollywood actresses and porn stars,” the anonymous person said.
The claims are remarkably similar to those leveled against Uber back in 2014. The company’s New York general manager used its God View real-time tool to track a BuzzFeed reporter because she “was 30 minutes late to a meeting.” Uber was eventually hit with a $20,000 fine by the New York Attorney General’s office and agreed to tighten its security practices.
Responding to the claims, a Lyft spokesperson said: "The specific allegations in this post would be a violation of Lyft’s policies and a cause for termination, and have not been raised with our Legal or Executive teams. We are conducting an investigation into the matter."
“Access to data is restricted to certain teams that need it to do their jobs. For those teams, each query is logged and attributed to a specific individual. We require employees to be trained in our data privacy practices and responsible use policy, which categorically prohibit accessing and using customer data for reasons other than those required by their specific role at the company.”
As Uber was hit with one scandal after another, Lyft often positioned itself as the friendly, trustworthy ride-hailing company. It’ll be interesting to see the investigation’s results, and what the firm does to address the issues.