Uber launched a new version of its ridesharing application with two new features. The first, and the one we’re frankly less concerned with, is that the app now has custom Snapchat filters. You unlock said filters by riding around in an Uber, and they apparently fill some previously unmet need to turn everything you do in public into a selfie. Uber writes, “If you’re an existing Snapchat user and on an Uber ride, you’ll see a Snap card in the feed. Just select the type of filter you want to unlock, take your selfie, and swipe right. You can even use Uber filters with another Snap lens for double the fun.”
The second “feature” is the one we’ll be discussing. Uber’s new application allows you to turn your Uber-using friends into destinations in and of themselves. Here’s how Uber describes it:
Where are you? Where’s that again? These are common questions we ask friends and family when meeting up. If you’re catching up with friends when out of town, meeting your sister at the mall, or joining coworkers for drinks, now you can skip the back and forth. Just Uber directly to them!
Here’s how it works:
- Sync your contacts with the Uber app
- Type in a friend’s name in the “Where to?” box
- Your friend will receive a request from Uber to provide their current static location
- Once they accept, their location is used as your destination and you can be on your way!
To help your friends and family know when they can expect you to arrive, we’ll share your ETA with them after you’re on your way to their location. They’ll get updates just like if you decided to share your ETA on any trip. So skip the back and forth, forget the address, and get straight to whom you’re meeting up with.
Granted, there are circumstances where this kind of tracking really could be useful — but it’s also a privacy nightmare waiting to happen. Uber is effectively asking permission to track people who aren’t even its own customers. While the company is currently promising that these requests will expire after 30 minutes and that it won’t keep a record of who you try to contact, it’s also been pushing hard to get more information about its customers and is facing lawsuits for how it handles existing data.
Earlier this month, Uber rolled out an update that requests the right to track users, even when they aren’t using the service, for up to five minutes after you exit the vehicle, as opposed to ceasing to do so when you stop using the app. It’s also facing down a lawsuit from one of its former forensic investigators, Ward Spangenberg, who alleges that sensitive and personal information that the company collected was made available internally to employees, who then used it to “track high profile politicians, celebrities and even personal acquaintances of Uber employees, including ex-boyfriends/girlfriends, and ex-spouses.”
In 2014, Uber ran into trouble for its “God View” that would show non-anonymized real-time information about its users. If you had to pick a Silicon Valley company not to trust with your personal data based on previous bad behavior, rampant allegations of mismanagement, and general terrible behavior, Uber belongs at the top of the list. Don’t bother your driver with crappy Snapchat-esque filters, and don’t invite your friends to use services for convenience when the companies behind them have earned their reputations for not taking privacy seriously.
Now read: 19 ways to stay anonymous and protect your online privacy