Reports show that ride-hailing application Uber turns over numerous ‘pieces of intelligence’ to the United Kingdom’s police force every year, said Cities Today. This practice alarmed drivers regarding their data privacy and possibilities of surveillance using the platform.
According to sources, the company has been complying with the police’s request for information. In 2019, more than 2,000 requests were obliged by the ride-hailing app for the capital alone.
This was revealed at a court hearing last week in which Uber defends its license to operate in London. A final decision is due on September 28.
Ride-hailing drivers associations in the UK were concerned about the implications of this practice to their privacy and security.
General Secretary of the App Drivers & Couriers Union James Farrar was “deeply concerned” that the Uber platform may be used for surveillance and intelligence gathering.
He said, “With Uber’s license hanging by a thread, the rideshare giant is particularly vulnerable to undue pressure from the police and regulatory authorities to compromise the personal data protection rights of their drivers, couriers, and passengers.”
One specific event that significantly raised concerns within the union was a letter presented in the London court from the National Police Chief’s Council to Mike Brown, then Transport for London (TfL) Commissioner.
The letter detailed Uber’s role in aiding law enforcement agencies in their anti-drug, -human trafficking, and -child sexual exploitation activities. Interestingly, the message emphasized that authorities’ ability to address these issues would be hampered without “data and support” from Uber.
As per the Daily Mail, the ridesharing has 45,000 drivers with around 3.5 million customers in London alone, since it started operating in the UK in 2012.
The issue with Uber’s license
The firm’s struggle with getting a license to operate in the UK stems from the revelation that its platform has a vulnerability that enabled unauthorized users to upload photos to authorized driver accounts.
This led to around 14,788 trips being conducted illegally using bogus identities. According to the Daily Mail, dismissed drivers picked up passengers and dropped them off.
In the US, passengers have been reporting sexual assault incidents involving drivers. This includes non-consensual kissing of a non-sexual body part, attempted non-rape, non-consensual touching of a sexual part, non-consensual touching, and kissing of a sexual body part, and rape.
The Daily Mail has contacted the company, but no response has been reported.