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Uber sues LA over ride-share privacy

Published March 30, 2020

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

The lawsuit, filed March 24 in U.S. District Court of the Central District of California, says the LADOT unlawfully implemented Mobility Data Specification. This allows the city access to coordinates of JUMP riders in real time. Uber argues that real-time location data could allow government agencies or hackers access to riders' information about daily activities and violate privacy.

"This is not a decision we take lightly, and not a step we wanted to take, but after 18 months of searching for a compromise, LADOT refuses to address the fundamental privacy concerns raised by us and independent experts," wrote Ruby Zefo, Uber's chief privacy officer, in a blog post on March 24. "In view of these circumstances, clarity from the courts is both a necessary next step and an obligation we have to our customers for the data they entrust to us."

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.

In a letter dated Oct. 28, 2019, to LADOT's 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. ..."

"We will continue to support cities in their responsible collection of data to manage their dockless mobility programs and we will continue to vigorously fight for the personal privacy rights of our riders," Zefo wrote.

Officially, Social Bicycles is the plaintiff in the lawsuit. Social Bicycles operates Jump, and Uber acquired Social Bicycles in 2018.

Topics associated with this article: Bikeshare

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