Uber’s invasive tracking led Apple to call the company for a special meeting where Tim Cook, current CEO of Apple, threatened to kick the App off the App store and all Apple devices because Uber was secretly tagging its user’s phones even when the application was deleted.
The tracking referred to a technique that allowed Uber to watch for when people deleted the app and then find them again when it was re-installed. While Uber claims that the tool was necessary to fight against fraud and that it is a common practice – but it stood at a corner with Apple’s privacy policies and users were out of the loop too.
Uber has been criticized for a range of its business practices, including allegations of sexual assault and the ‘Delete Uber’ movement that arose after it seemed to break the protest against Donald Trump’s Muslim ban.
The trick relied on a special technique called ‘fingerprinting’ that allowedUber to identify the phones that download the app. When someone deletes the app, they would store the ‘fingerprint’ and track it to know if the user downloads the app again. By the utilization of this feature they would know if the app is re-installed on the same phone. The company defended that they require implementing it to ensure if the phone should be flagged for fraudulent activity.
Uber spokesperson said, “We absolutely do not track individual users or their location if they have deleted the app. Similar techniques are used for detecting and blocking suspicious logins to protect our user’s accounts. Being able to recognise this trickery when they enter onto our network is an important security measure for both users and Uber.”
Since all the controversy surrounding this tracking tool, Uber has actually added a new feature to its app that allows Uber to track people after they have closed the apps. A New York Times report claims that Uber also bought receipts from customers who were using Lyft, a rival taxi app. Uber then studied those receipts to understand their competition better.