May 27, 2022

Uber and the Breach of Personal Data

By: Desiree Dahlson @desireedahlson

Big Brother is always watching. But this time, Big Brother isn’t the government. Big Brother is social media and the internet.

When anything is put on the internet, it is nearly impossible to fully erase it, according to the Washington Post. While many know this, 91% of adults believe the way personal information is collected online is not controlled by the consumers. Brendan Witcher, Forrester analyst, said ,”[consumers] are more willing to sharing personal information about themselves – like brands they own, retailers they shop with, even interests and hobbies – than traditional data like income, age, and gender. Because they know the former is more relevant than the latter.” Because of this, the amount of data found on the internet about each individual can give insight into many aspects of the consumers’ lives.

Multimillion dollar and worldwide company Uber wants to capitalize on the amount of personal data found on the internet. Recently, the company created a patent that would allow the app to access data found on riders’ social media profiles. Uber would access personal data specifically, and use this information for the UberPool aspect of the ride-share app, a feature that allows riders to carpool with another random rider headed in the same direction.

With personal information on riders, Uber will be able to match a rider with another rider that has a common link with them. This could include things like riders with mutual friends, similar hobbies, riders from the same home town, or those who went to the same university. Before the Uber arrived the riders would be notified of the common link between them and the other rider.

While this feature could create a more comfortable and welcome environment to riders during what can sometimes be an awkward situation sharing a ride with a complete stranger, some fear the breach of privacy it could mean. Furthermore, the patent states that the riders would be able to connect with each other on Facebook before the ride, revealing one’s identity and possibly more personal information than one rider may be comfortable with. It might be best for Uber to utilize a fleet management system within their cars, this can provide a better safety aspect, just in case something does happen with a ride. Companies can go now to see how that can be achieved in the best way possible for them.

The patent was first filed by Uber in July 2016, but still has yet to be approved. This highlights the concerns many have regarding using consumers’ personal information from the internet. Most companies that obtain or require personal data of their customers are likely to tokenize sensitive information as a part of PII compliance (you can check out for a deeper understanding) to prevent breach in security that may lead to the disclosure of any customer’s personally identifiable information. Although, companies can hold onto personal data, as long as they’re following GDPR guidelines. When storing data, many companies do actually use hard drives to keep all of the data in one place. However, this means that all of the data could disappear with one wrong click on the computer. If the data did ever go missing, Uber customer’s shouldn’t worry as companies like DriveSavers ( are usually called upon to recover the missing data. Being a big company, Uber should have all of this data held securely, however, customers can always enquire about their data storage policies if they are concerned.

In the end, personal data found on the internet seems to reveal something rather ironic: consumers are willing to share a good deal of personal data on the internet, yet many of these same consumers also feel uncomfortable when their personal data is accessed and used by companies.

2 thoughts on “Uber and the Breach of Personal Data

  1. I am not sure what it is but I feel icky about Uber’s new carpooling strategy. It’s better for the environment, easier on gas, and the drivers but something about Uber accessing my personal data without my specific permission has me feeling a little unsettled.

    I think that you bring up an interesting point with the phrase “big brother” because in a lot of my classes we’ve had similar discussion on what this breach of privacy means. But also, on the flip side, while some feel as though their privacy is being violated some are in the mindset of, “Well I put my personal information out there anyway!” But, what I think about is, yes I put my information out there but my stuff is set to private, so those looking at it do so with my explicit permission. However, Madewell (fabulous clothing brand) and other retail shops I am interested in always pop up in my advertisements and that does not bother me and I wonder if that’s because it’s just a norm I have become accustomed to (or the fact that I love that Madewell is a click away).

    This idea of breaching privacy has my train of thought going on a lot of different directions. Uber being linked to my personal information makes me feel icky but knowing that Google, Facebook and other platforms are personally targeting based on my search history me does not make me think twice.

    I am curious about how other people in our class feel so I can’t wait to see more comments!

  2. Desiree,

    I haven’t heard anything about this before your post, so thank you for writing this!

    I am a big user of Uber when I am back in my hometown, San Diego, or when I am traveling in a city that has the service. I am also not too find of one of my favorite companies taking my personal information and giving it to a random stranger that I am about to get in a car with. Something about that makes me feel a little uncomfortable and I also think its just awkward! I can think of plenty of creepy and weird situations where knowing a common interest, connection, etc. with a stranger you are about to share a ride with can go south. I guess I also just don’t want an organization I often trust my life with to be able to do that and know so much about me. Maybe I am too introverted but please just let me get to my destination in peace and quiet and I will save the chatting for social media.

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