“God View” let Uber staff see any passenger’s activity

An Uber employee told a visiting journalist that he had tracked her, leading her to uncover an internal company tool called “God View” that let Uber staff see the travels of any passenger including both real-time and historic location, all without the passenger’s knowledge.

Uber granted job candidates provisional access to the same customer location data provided to full-time employees.  One candidate reported having this access for an entire day, even after the interview ended.  He admitted searching for records of people he knew, including politicians’ relatives.

User also displayed customer data to members of the public invited to its premises.  At a 2011 party celebrating Uber’s launch in Chicago, Uber let guests visually track passenger rides, without users’ permission or knowledge.

Untrue or misleading representations about safety measures

In litigation, the City of San Francisco and City of Los Angeles alleged that Uber falsely claimed to offer the “safest ride on the road” with the “strictest safety standards possible,” which, the cities argued, was “likely to mislead consumers into believing Uber does everything it can to ensure their safety” when in fact better methods were available.

The cities further alleged that Uber’s claim to be “doing everything we can to make Uber the safest experience on the road” was inconsistent with the company’s lobbying against certain safety requirements then being discussed in the California legislature.

The People Of The State Of California v. Uber Technologies Inc A Delaware Corporation Et Al – litigation docket

Arbitration clauses repeatedly criticized by federal judges

Multiple judges criticized Uber’s requirement that passengers and drivers resolve disputes only in arbitration, foregoing lawsuits, group lawsuits such as class actions, trial by jury, and other standard legal protections.

In Meyer v. Uber, Judge Rakoff remarked that Uber’s arbitration requirement is “by no means prominently displayed on Uber’s registration screen” and that the presentation of the requirement is “obscure” and “inconspicuous” (2016 WL 4073012 at *8).

In Mohamed v. Uber, Judge Chen repeatedly criticized Uber’s arbitration requirement, finding it “both procedurally and substantively unconscionable, and therefore unenforceable as a matter of California law.” Among other concerns, Chen noted that the arbitration clause required drivers to pay half the cost of arbitration, that confidentiality clauses disproportionately benefited Uber, that a carve-out for intellectual property claims solely benefited Uber, and that Uber retained a right of unilateral modification.  Chen later reviewed Uber’s proposed revision, found it unsatisfactory, and insisted on further revisions.  Chen also criticized Uber’s communication with drivers about the arbitration clause under litigation, without court approval.

Charged nonexistent “Airport Fee Toll” for journeys to SFO

Through October 2014, Uber charged passengers a $4.00 “Airport Fee Toll” to travel to San Francisco International Airport, although there was no such fee charged by the airport, city, or anyone else.  The city reported that some drivers (though by all indications not many) had permission to operate commercially at SFO, but that they paid $3.85 at most in fees to SFO. Uber always charged more—indeed, as much as $8 if two passengers shared an UberPool vehicle to SFO.

Charged nonexistent “Logan Massport Surcharge & Toll”

In 2013-2014, Uber charged a nonexistent $8.75 “Logan Massport Surcharge & Toll” for rides to or from Boston’s Logan airport.  Uber’s web site said was to “cover… Massport fees and other costs related to airport trips.”  But neither Massport nor Logan airport charged any such fees.  Furthermore, Uber charged an “East Boston Toll” of $5.25, but the largest toll any UberX driver was actually obliged to pay was $3.50.  Uber reimbursed drivers for the actual toll and retained the remainder.

Cullinane et al v. Uber Technologies, Inc. No. 1:14-cv-14750-DPW. Massachusetts District Court. December 30, 2014.  Complaint.  Supreme Court briefing as to Uber’s motion to compel arbitration and avoid litigation (also restating and summarizing merits of the case).

Analyzed customers’ “Rides of Glory”

Uber staff analyzed passengers’ rides to and from unfamiliar overnight locations to chronicle and tabulate one-night-stands.  Uber explained the methodology: “A RoGer [Ride of Glory user] is anyone who took a ride between 10pm and 4am on a Friday or Saturday night, and then took a second ride from within 1/10th of a mile of the previous nights’ drop-off point 4-6 hours later (enough for a quick night’s sleep).”

Uber counted the number of such users in various cities, then assessed the most common such neighborhoods and which weekends have the most ROG’s. Uber published the analysis, including highlighted neighborhood maps, on a corporate blog.

Who’s Driving You? preserved Uber’s since-deleted “Rides of Glory” blog post.