Late last year - just before the company started running into a different scandal every month – Uber’s new Location Information update arrived in its app. The feature proved controversial for its ability to track a customer’s location up to five minutes after a trip ended. Now, it’s being removed.
Following a turbulent six months that culminated in co-founder Travis Kalanick stepping down as CEO in June, Uber is attempting to improve its tarnished image by removing the feature.
When location tracking is enabled in the app – a requirement for it to work without manually entering pickup/drop-off addresses – Uber can collect customers’ GPS location data even after a ride has finished. This happens whether the app is running in the foreground or the background.
Uber had already been criticized for the way it handles riders’ privacy, and the tracking update added more fuel to consumers’ anger. The company said it planned to use the data to improve parts of its service such as drop-offs, pickups, and customer safety, but it claims to have never activated the feature on iPhones and suspended it for Android users.
Uber is expected to announce the removal today. The change means users’ will once again only be able to share their location data while using the app. It’s set to roll out to iPhones later this week and on Android at a later date.
In an interview with Reuters, Joe Sullivan, Uber’s chief security officer, said the update was unrelated to Uber’s current internal struggles, as it looks for someone to replace Kalanick.
“We’ve been building through the turmoil and challenges because we already had our mandate,” said Sullivan, who added that while Uber was committed to privacy, also admitted it had previously suffered “a lack of expertise” in the area.