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Uber Transparency Report Reveals Data Hungry Regulators

Uber has unveiled its first transparency report, revealing a tension with local regulatory authorities in the US which it hopes will spark a public debate over the amount and type of data they’re requesting.

This report features an overview of the information provided to US state and local regulators and law enforcement agencies between July and December 2015.

It differs from similar reports by the likes of Facebook and Twitter because, although it is a technology company, Uber also operates in the offline and highly regulated world of transportation.

Typical requests may include information about “trips, trip requests, pickup and drop-off areas, fares, vehicles, and drivers in their jurisdictions for a given time period,” Uber claimed.

Despite only receiving 33 data requests from regulators, these covered a massive 11.6 million passengers and 583,000 drivers – revealing that many of these were blanket requests.

“Of course regulators will always need some amount of data to be effective, just like law enforcement. But in many cases they send blanket requests without explaining why the information is needed, or how it will be used,” Uber complained in a blog post.

“And while this kind of trip data doesn’t include personal information, it can reveal patterns of behavior and is more than regulators need to do their jobs. It’s why Uber frequently tries to narrow the scope of these demands, though our efforts are typically rebuffed.”

In fact, Uber claims it complied as required around 58% of the time, and was successful in negotiating a narrower scope on only 42% of occasions.

“We hope our Transparency Report will lead to a public debate about the types and amounts of information regulated services should be required to provide to their regulators, and under what circumstances,” it concluded.

The report also revealed requests from airport authorities, which are effectively mini-regulators for the area around their particular airport.

Over 1.6 million passengers and 156,000 drivers were affected by the 34 requests made in this sector.

In addition, there were 408 requests from law enforcement for passenger account details and 205 driver account requests. Uber complied fully with 32% and partially with 53%, claiming it sometimes requires a subpoena, court order, or search warrant before providing different types of information.

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