Last week, Uber's senior vice president of business Emil Michael stirred up a controversy by saying that the company should consider hiring a team of researchers to "dig up dirt" on journalists who were critical of the company. Although he later apologized for his remarks, the incident has landed the company in hot water, as it has caught the attention of Sen. Al Franken, who has sent a letter to Uber Chief Executive Travis Kalanick, asking him to clarify the company's stance on user privacy.
"The policies made available on your website do not in any clear way match or support what your company has stated in the wake of Mr. Michael's reported statements", said the Minnesota Democrat, who chairs the Subcommittee on Privacy, Technology, and the Law, adding that this raises serious concerns about the scope, transparency, and enforceability of the company's policies.
Earlier, responding to the incident, Uber spokeswoman Nairi Hourdajian had said, "Any such activity would be clear violations of our privacy and data access policies. Access to and use of data is permitted only for legitimate business purposes. These policies apply to all employees. We regularly monitor and audit that access”.
Franken also brought up recent allegations that the company's New York general manager had used an internal company tool called God View to track a BuzzFeed reporter without her knowledge.
Towards the end, the letter requests that Kalanick address ten questions, including if there was any disciplinary action taken against Michael, who inside the company has access to the God View tool, and more. Franken is seeking a response by December 15, 2014.
The news comes just a day after the City of Toronto filed a notice of application seeking a court injunction against Uber.