Uber failures led to 2014 hack exposing 100k drivers' details — FTC

The US Federal Trade Commission

That November, Uber issued a public statement pledging it had a "strict policy prohibiting all employees at every level from accessing a rider or driver's data", the FTC recounted in its complaint. Uber also failed to incorporate an encryption security for personal user information. In January, Uber agreed to pay $20 million to the FTC to settle separate claims that it misled drivers about both potential earnings and the cost of leasing cars from the company. A former forensic investigator at the company alleged employees were using the app's "God view" tool to snoop on the ride histories of ex-lovers, acquaintances, and high-profile celebrities and politicians. But the system was active for less than a year, and for nine months after it was discontinued, employees once again had unfettered access to data. "It is further ordered that, in connection with its compliance with the Provision of this Order titled Mandated Privacy Program, Respondent must obtain initial and biennial assessments", the FTC document said in addition to ordering privacy assessments by a third party. However, according to the FTC, Uber stopped using that system within a year.

The FTC also investigated a massive data breach in May 2014 in which more than 100,000 names and license numbers of Uber drivers were stolen.

"We have significantly strengthened our privacy and data security practices since then and will continue to invest heavily in these programmes", an Uber representative said.

"This settlement provides an opportunity to work with the FTC to further verify that our programs protect user privacy and personal information", he said.

Uber agreed to institute a comprehensive privacy policy and undergo privacy audits to settle the allegations.

"We are pleased to bring the FTC's investigation to a close", a spokesperson for Uber said. It's another in a long string of missteps for the San Francisco-based company, which faces a separate federal investigation for allegedly using a phony app to block city inspectors from monitoring its service.

Under the new agreement with the FTC, Uber has to do some very simple things: stop "misrepresenting how it monitors internal access to consumers' personal information" and "misrepresenting how it protects and secures that data".

As part of its settlement, Uber is barred from misrepresenting how it monitors its riders' and drivers' data, as well as the ways it secures that information.

Melissa Krasnow, privacy partner at VLP Law Group LLP in Minneapolis, told Bloomberg BNA Aug. 15 that the FTC's "enforcement action makes clear that geolocation information is sensitive information for which reasonable security must be provided".

"Our order requires a culture of privacy sensitivity for Uber", Ohlhausen said on a call with reporters.

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