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Privacy Concerns After Uber allegedly spied on users, including Beyoncé

Cab startup’s former forensic investigator Samuel Ward Spangenberg claims he was fired from the company after blowing whistle on lack of security

Privacy Concerns After Uber allegedly spied on users, including Beyoncé
Privacy Concerns After Uber allegedly spied on users, including Beyoncé

The latest one concerns the privacy of users. The company has said it couldn’t access ride data information for its users. A former Uber security expert, however, claims that employees have been able to track people using the app, including high-profile customers.

Uber employees helped ex-boyfriends stalk ex-girlfriends, and were even able to access trip information for celebrities like Beyonce, Reveal News explains. These revelations come from the company’s former in-house forensic investigator Ward Spangenberg.

“Uber’s lack of security regarding its customer data was resulting in Uber employees being able to track high-profile politicians, celebrities, and even personal acquaintances of Uber employees, including ex-boyfriends/girlfriends, and ex-spouses,”Spangenberg said in a court declaration signed in October. He is now suing Uber for age discrimination and whistleblower retaliation. He’s a 45-year-old security expert who worked for various tech companies, Uber included.

In his testimony, given under penalty of perjury, Spangenberg also objected to Uber’s protocols to deal with raids on its offices – a relatively common occurrence at the company, which has been frequently criticised for riding roughshod over local regulations.

“As part of Uber’s incident response team, I would be called when governmental agencies raided Uber’s offices due to concerns regarding noncompliance with governmental regulations,” Spangenberg said. “In those instances, Uber would lock down the office and immediately cut all connectivity so that law enforcement could not access Uber’s information. I would then be tasked with purchasing all new equipment for the office within the day, which I did when Uber’s Montreal office was raided.”

Spangenberg’s allegations were reported by the Centre for Investigative Reporting’s (CIR) Reveal project, but it isn’t the first time Uber has been accused of mistreating customer data. In 2014, Buzzfeed revealed the existence of the “God View” tool, after Uber’s New York general manager discussed using it to track a reporter’s journey. The tool’s existence appears to date back to 2011, when venture capitalist Peter Sims says he was tracked by a visitor to Uber’s Chicago offices, where the God View data was shown on a large public screen.

In a statement given to a number of media outlets, Uber said it “continues to increase our security investments and many of these efforts, like our multi-factor authentication checks and bug bounty program, have been widely reported. We have hundreds of security and privacy experts working around the clock to protect our data. This includes enforcing to authorised employees solely for purposes of their job responsibilities, and all potential violations are quickly and thoroughly investigated.”

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James Barnley

I’m the editor of the DomainingAfrica. I write about internet and social media, focusing mainly on Domains. As a subscriber to my newsletter, you’ll get a lot of information on Domain Issues, ICANN, new gtld’s, Mobile technology and social media.

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