Uber

Smartphone Ride Services Uber and Lyft Earn Unfortunate Attention from Congress

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Vaguely unnerving news from last week from The Hill for those who love the convenience and ease and often the price of such smartphone ride-hailing apps as Uber and Lyft:

Raido Kalma–Flickr

The upstart ride-hailing companies earned new ire from two top Democrats on the powerful Senate Commerce Committee over the protections they put in place for customers' data.

In particular, Sens. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) and Clare McCaskill (D-Mo.) raised concerns about officials' reported ability to easily track users' location without their knowledge or consent — a feature known as "God View" at Uber.

"These reports are disturbing because geolocation data can be used to create intimate profiles of customers, such as where they live, work and socialize," the senators wrote in a just-released letter to Uber head Travis Kalanick. A similar letter was sent to Lyft CEO Logan Green……

In their letters, the senators demanded copies of the companies' documents detailing their data security and privacy protection plans as well as a briefing from top officials about the practices.

They also pointedly raised the specter of the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), which is required to police unfair and deceptive business practices and is under the jurisdiction of the Commerce panel….

"The Commission's cases have cut a wide swath across industries, including social networking sites, mobile handset manufacturers, application developers, rental car companies, retail and drug stores, check cashing companies, and hotel chains," the senators noted, without directly threatening the companies.

I love that "without directly threatening." Government alas has the power of any protection racket to threaten without explicitly threatening, as all businesses understand.

…Last week, [Sen. Al] Franken [D-Minn.] said that he was unsatisfied with Uber's response to a letter that he sent the company. 

I, and most of their clients, am very happy with the service that Lyft (the e-hailer I use) provides, but alas that might not matter at all if Franken's personal dissatisfaction that some American businesses don't properly and swifty respect his authority leads to fresh attempts to legislate or regulate over the fact that, by the very nature of the services, the companies have to know a lot about their customers whereabouts when using the service.

Most of the companies' political battles have been on the local and state level, and I wrote a long feature about those in the November issue of Reason.

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  1. There are a positive shitload of apps that constantly track your location. I’ll bet a bunch of them are also capable of providing a sysadmin somewhere with “God view”. The amount of data your phone routinely uploads is absolutely appalling.

    If this is a problem, its a much bigger problem that Uber or Lyft. Yet they are the ones being singled out. Wonder why?

    1. Have you ever seen the movie “Stuart Saves His Taxi Cartel”?

      1. That was the sequel to “Mister Smith Sells Out”, right?

    2. They are popular and newsworthy. McCaskill has heard of them, but they haven’t donated to her campaign fund, so they must be brought to heel.

  2. “The upstart ride-hailing companies earned new ire from two top Democrats on the powerful Senate Commerce Committee”

    Now that they are sliding into the minority, they may not be able to do much more than carp and bitch about it.

    1. They can still make “unofficial” calls to the IRS.

  3. geolocation data can be used to create intimate profiles of customers, such as where they live, work and socialize

    But enough about the NSA…

    1. First thing I thought of when I read this. I mean…the gall of these fucks. The NSA, which they can ostensibly (though it seems not actually) control and influence already does this to all of us. And they’re “worried” about rideshare companies?!?

      It’s typical politician grandstanding on a new trend. The opportunistic fucks just want to horn in on anything they can.

      1. The opportunistic fucks just want to horn in on anything they can.

        I believe you took that directly from the TEAM BE RULED platform, yes?

      2. Chuck Schumer is disappointed that his minions didn’t keep him abreast of the situation. Imagine getting upstaged by that boob Franken.

  4. “These reports are disturbing because geolocation data can be used to create intimate profiles of customers, such as where they live, work and socialize,”

    1) “Hey, only we’re allowed to do that!”

    2) If Uber didn’t track where its customers/drivers were going, they would be attacked for not having safeguards in place and would be regulated to start tracking them.

    1. 1) “Hey, only we’re allowed to do that!”

      Yeah, but customers voluntarily do business with Uber and Lyft. It’s only acceptable when those same customers are compelled to provide that information by a secret court ruling.

    2. 2) If Uber didn’t track where its customers/drivers were going, they would be attacked for not having safeguards in place and would be regulated to start tracking them.

      Came here to post this.

      This is basically a way to get Uber and Lyft to have to jump through a few more hurdles so cab companies don’t have to compete. Cab companies could hurt Uber and Lyft more by making their services more convenient, but they don’t protect their cartel by doing that.

    3. Trucking companies do this too, to make sure their trucks stay on proper routes and arent doing personal business on the side.

  5. Somebody at Uber and Lyft send campaign donation checks to Nelson, McCaskill, and Franken so they’ll shut the fuck up already.

    1. Just make sure the checks are $0.01 more than the checks they got from the taxi lobbyists…

  6. Fuck them. Tell the NSA to stop doing the same thing.

    1. ^^ this.

      “Ooohhh nnnooeeess, a private company is tracking user data!”

      What about the folks with the guns and jails and immunity from wrongdoing? What about them actually reading everything we fucking send over the internet and tracking everyone’s movements?

      “National Security”

      Terrible.

      1. You don’t understand! The government is us, We the People! It’s the core-pour-ray-shuns that can’t be trusted! They’re like rich white guys who are after icky profits and stuff! Government can be trusted, because it’s us!

      2. The government and NSA are subject to democratic checks and balances, not like private companies such as Uber. They can seemingly do whatever they want without anyone ever knowing. The government, on the other hand, is compelled to be transparent and subject itself to the will of the people.

        1. I want to believe this is sarcasm…

          1. I was possessed by the spirit of Tony for a second.

  7. http://www.msn.com/en-us/news/…..ailsignout

    I love the headline. Wonder how long they’ve been sitting on that one.

    1. I have stayed at the 4 Bears casino many times while hunting pheasants. My favorite part of the casino is the sign on the door that asks hunters to please case their shot guns before bringing them onto the property.

    2. Season 4 of Longmire just writes itself…

      1. Or would, if it hadn’t been cancelled.

        1. http://deadline.com/2014/11/ne…..201289364/

          Netflix is saving the fourth season at least.

    3. It’s that evil oil that did it, not the, you know, chairman with the power to do those things.

  8. They also pointedly raised the specter of the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), which is required to police unfair and deceptive business practices

    It’s unfair & deceptive that a business does something that all its customers know about and voluntarily choose to do purchase the service anyway.

      1. Time on station?

    1. Awe, nix the “do”.

      #WhatIsProofreading

  9. For some reason I have this feeling that this has nothing to do with protecting anyone’s privacy.

  10. Does anyone not think that any taxi company has its own god mode? If you talked to a dispatcher at a traditional company do you not think that they pretty much know where everyone is?

    Especially now with gps transponders on most fleets I’m guessing that they know exactly where they are.

    The only thing missing is the name of the of the customer.

    1. You limit yourself to taxis, but common carriers have had the ability to do this for decades. I think the railroad companies were doing this by the 1950’s. Amtrak should have been able to do so at its inception.

      The larger trucking companies have been able to do this for 20 years and Congress mandated ALL trucking companies do so a few years ago.

      But then again, Al Franken is a stupid commie dumbass piece of shit.

  11. my roomate’s mother makes $71 /hr on the internet . She has been laid off for 7 months but last month her payment was $12827 just working on the internet for a few hours. this link…..
    ?????http://www.netjob70.com

  12. the senators demanded copies of the companies’ documents detailing their data security and privacy protection plans

    Because publicizing your security always makes it work so much better.

    1. “I’m sure they can cross the ISDN wire with the HTTP wire with Telephony and a bit of ISP and LAN and make their Intertubewebz Zone safe from and HTML that might happen. My nephew told be about all this.”

      /Senator Dumbshit

      1. The Elders of the Internet are not happy with you blabbing stuff like this in public

        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iDbyYGrswtg

    2. Because publicizing your security always makes it work so much better.

      Actually, it usually does. Security thru obscurity has some small benefits, but is outweighed by public picking at open security measures.

  13. Innovation, it was nice knowing you.

    Anyone want to start a colony on Marie Byrd Land?

    1. Oh please. Pols have been pulling this penny-ante shakedown shit for centuries. Innovation wins.

      1. And its been slowing down innovation for centuries too.

      2. All you see is the seen. What you don’t see is all the innovations that were crushed by government regulation. Innovation wins until it is crushed by regulation, then the only way to get anything done is by getting permission from some bureaucrat who takes pleasure in not allowing productive people to be productive.

        1. All you see is the seen.

          What are you, some sort of Bastiat freak?

          1. Bastiat freak

            Good band name.

      3. HP is right. Government will fight innovation and even crush it sometimes but it will lose the war.

    1. For society to progress, the government needs more power. Because fire and the wheel wouldn’t have been discovered without government research grants.

      1. Yep, government created the middle class through social programs. It’s strange that everyone I have even known who would be considered middle class don’t receive any government subsidies. How the proggies actually are able to force themselves to believe non-sense like this is mind boggling.

        1. You don’t get it. There’s only so much money/income/wealth/capital out there. (I ran those things together because they are synonyms. They all mean the same thing.) And if you’ve got some then it grows all by itself. If you don’t then you work for someone who does. That’s what capitalism is. If you’ve got money then it grows, otherwise you work for a capitalist. That’s how the rich get richer and the poor get poorer. The only way to fix it is to have Robin Hood Government rob the rich and give the the poor. Otherwise all that money will bubble up to the rich, leaving everyone else as slaves to the corporations.
          That’s what makes libertarians terrible people. They want everyone to be penniless slaves to the corporations. It’s the progressives who really care about society because they’re the ones who would use government to make things fair for everyone, not just the rich.

        2. It’s strange that everyone I have even known who would be considered middle class don’t receive any government subsidies.

          Public school, mortgage deduction, dependent deductions just off the top of my head.

          1. A deduction is a subsidy only if not taking is giving.

          2. Odd, I pay a shitload of property taxes and state income taxes for teh skoolz…

          3. Deductions (vice refundable tax credits) are not subsidies. You cannot be subsidized with your own damn money.

            You might have a case with public schools (as a subsidy for children and their families by the childless), but it would be a disingenuous example. While homeschooling is largely a recognized right nowadays, there is no tax refund for homeschooling families any more than there is for childless families, and attendance in some form of state-approved education remains mandatory. It’s kind of hard to call something you are forced to use a subsidy.

      2. ^^ and gravity – don’t forget gravity

        If Newton hadn’t been provided a grant to discover gravity, we’d have all floated off into space and suffocated, cause Lord knows the Kochs wouldn’t have funded that research.

      3. Og need new cave. Og get low-interest tribally guaranteed loan.

        1. Og sometime wonder about effect of low interest rate on mammoth-tusk purchase power, but then Og remember he caveman.

    2. Why is there a picture of O’Reilly on that article?

      1. Well, that’s supposed to be him right there beside of White Squaw.

    3. I’m going to click that link b/c it promises a mild chuckle.

      1. The full link name contains three excellent pieces of advice.

    4. It took more than the usual civic sloth to produce the lowest turnout in 72 years. It took alienating vast voting blocs, including the young and the working class of both genders and all races.

      Simple solution #1: stop alienating the young by attacking innovators like Uber

      Simple solution #2: stop alienating the working class (whatever the fuck that means) by centralizing and taxing every aspect of their lives

      1. Re#1: Innovators are buccaneers. They disrupt society, and not in a good way. There needs to be rules. Otherwise you have anarchy. Uber isn’t being attacked. They’re being regulated. Government is rightly taking control from the buccaneers and putting the people (government == the people) in charge, because the alternative is chaos.

        Re#2: Everything must be centralized. Duh. Otherwise who will control things? Everything must be controlled, and unless you can say specifically who will control things if government doesn’t, then you’ve got no argument against government central planning. As far as taxes go, paying taxes is patriotic. Why do you hate your country?

  14. Butthurt taxi and limo drivers’ unions complaining to Democrat politicians that they want Uber and Lyft crushed out of existence by whatever means.

    The decision by the New York City taxi and limousine commission to require that 100% of taxis in the city not only be disabled accessible but that they all must be the same make and model really stinks to high heaven.

    What’s even worse is they chose a NISSAN! Worse than that was they chose a model that wasn’t even in mass production yet.

    To cover for that the commission decided to allow the 2nd place, already in production Ford, and currently in use vehicles to be used until the Nissan was actually available to buy.

    What should have been done was simply enacting a rule that at least 10% of taxis in NYC would have to be disabled accessible. That would put at least one wheelchair usable cab in sight of pretty much any point in the downtown area at any time.

    But noooo, they decided that the “best” way to go about things was to force all cab companies to have to buy all new fleets far sooner than they would have to under the existing rules and regulations for maintaining their vehicles. It also forces a loss of seating capacity upon 100% of all taxis in the city to accommodate a passenger in a wheelchair.

    That smells like a ploy by the larger companies to squeeze out the smaller operators.

    But what else can one expect from people who figure the world ought to be run on the principles of “equality” in Harrison Bergeron?

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