Uber is formally launching two new features today: View as Driver and Profile Data Expiration. Uber claims these updates will make both riders and drivers feel safer by providing enhanced privacy and transparency.
According to Uber’s United States Safety Report released in December 2019, more than 5,981 riders and drivers reported an Uber-related sexual assault in 2017 and 2018 combined. The report found that 89% of those who filed reports were women-identifying. Uber’s new privacy features could help protect users, especially riders who identify as women and those who belong to marginalized groups.
Uber’s View as Driver feature allows riders to see what personal information drivers have on them. Before, during, and after the ride, riders can see what personal details their driver has access to — including their first name, photo, and pickup and drop-off location. Riders are also able to confirm that drivers can’t see certain private information — including their last name, phone number, profile photo, and the rating they give their driver. This feature will be available as a prompt on the main rider interface. According to senior product manager of privacy engineering Zach Singleton, View as Driver is a first in the ride-sharing industry.
In an interview with VentureBeat, Singleton said, “There are two primary ways to access this feature. We’ll prompt you annually … or you can open the feature from any trip and your trip history. And you can also access a non-personalized version of the feature in our in-app privacy settings or on the web.”
On the driver side, the Profile Data Expiration update is designed to remove personal driver information — including the driver’s first name, profile picture, and car make and model — within 48 hours after a ride. Uber also says the driver’s license plate information will be removed from the rider’s app within 30 days. Singleton said that this feature will be a default setting applied to all rides.
The two updates are already rolling out in the United States and Canada. Uber plans to create related features for Uber and Uber Eats in the future.
Today’s release coincides with conversations about Proposition 22, a measure on California’s November ballot that would exempt companies like Uber from classifying drivers as employees and paying them the mandated wages and benefits. Just last Thursday, a California Appeals Court ordered these ride-sharing companies to reclassify their drivers as employees. This injunction would go into effect in about a month; the companies would need to follow the court ruling unless Proposition 22 passes. Ride-sharing companies claim that without drivers being classified as independent contractors, large numbers of Californians could be put out of work.
Uber, along with Lyft and other “gig economy” companies, has spent over $200 million advocating for the passage of Proposition 22. According to Los Angeles Times columnist Michael Hiltzit, this ballot campaign is the most expensive in state history. While Uber’s new privacy features appear to be arriving at a politically relevant moment, they follow Uber’s longterm focus on data transparency and could significantly improve user experiences across the board.
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