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Uber, L.A. tangle over ride-share privacy issue

Published October 31, 2019

LOS ANGELES (BRAIN) — Uber Technologies Inc. is threatening legal action against the Los Angeles Department of Transportation because of a disagreement over the sharing of real-time location data of its JUMP e-bike and scooter riders.

An Uber spokesman told BRAIN on Thursday the company hasn't filed suit yet, despite what some media outlets are reporting. The LADOT said Uber had until Tuesday to begin providing the ride-share data or have its permit suspended to operate in the city. The LADOT did not return a request Thursday for comment.

"JUMP riders in Los Angeles have a reasonable expectation of privacy in the trip data created from riding on our bikes and scooters," the Uber spokesman said. "Independent privacy experts have clearly and repeatedly asserted that a customer's geolocation is personally identifiable information, and — consistent with a recent legal opinion by the California legislative counsel — we believe that LADOT's requirements to share sensitive on-trip data compromises our customers' expectations of data privacy and security.

"Therefore, we had no choice but to pursue a legal challenge, and we sincerely hope to arrive at a solution that allows us to provide reasonable data and work constructively with the City of Los Angeles while protecting the privacy of our riders."

This ride-share data helps determine if services are available to lower-income residents and ensure companies follow rules limiting the number of vehicles they are allowed to rent.

"While all other permitted scooter and bike companies are complying with our rules, Uber has repeatedly refused," the LADOT said in a statement published by the website Vice.

In a letter dated Oct. 28 to LADOT Chief Sustainability Officer Marcel Porras, Uber said, in part, "We urge LADOT to continue to work towards, and not away from, solutions that both further next generation transportation solutions for the public and ground themselves firmly in privacy best practice. We believe that best in class data aggregation methods could deliver LADOT near-real time data — while protecting the identity of Los Angeles residents and our riders. ..."

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