Uber is formally launching two new features today: View as Driver and Profile Data Expiration. Uber claims these updates will make both riders and drivers feel safer by providing enhanced privacy and transparency.
According to Uber’s United States Safety Report released in December 2019, more than 5,981 riders and drivers reported an Uber-related sexual assault in 2017 and 2018 combined. The report found that 89% of the people who filed reports identify as women. Uber’s new privacy features could help protect riders and drivers who might be at risk, including those who belong to marginalized groups.
Uber’s View as Driver feature allows riders to see what personal information drivers can access. Before, during, and after the ride, riders can see what personal details their driver receives — including their first name, photo, and pickup and drop-off location. Riders are also able to confirm that drivers can’t see certain private information — including their last name, phone number, profile photo, and the rating they give their driver. The feature will be available as a prompt on the main rider interface. According to privacy engineering executive Zach Singleton, View as Driver is a first in the ride-sharing industry.
In an interview with VentureBeat, Singleton said, “There are two primary ways to access this feature. We’ll prompt you annually … or you can open the feature from any trip and your trip history. And you can also access a non-personalized version of the feature in our in-app privacy settings or on the web.”
On the driver side, the Profile Data Expiration update is designed to remove personal driver information — including the driver’s first name, profile picture, and car make and model — within 48 hours after a ride. Uber says the driver’s license plate information will be deleted from the rider’s app within 30 days. Singleton said this feature will be a default setting applied to all rides.
The two updates are already rolling out in the United States and Canada. Uber plans to create related features for Uber and Uber Eats in the future.
Today’s release coincides with conversations about Proposition 22, a measure on California’s November 3 ballot that would exempt companies like Uber from classifying drivers as employees and paying them mandated wages and benefits. Ride-sharing companies claim that limiting their ability to classify drivers as independent contractors will put large numbers of Californians out of work. Just last Thursday, a California Appeals Court ordered these companies to reclassify their drivers as employees. This injunction is set to take effect in about a month unless Proposition 22 passes.
Uber, along with Lyft and other “gig economy” companies, has spent over $200 million advocating for the passage of Proposition 22. According to Los Angeles Times columnist Michael Hiltzik, this ballot campaign is the most expensive in state history. While Uber’s new privacy features appear to be arriving at a politically relevant moment, they follow Uber’s long-term focus on data transparency and could significantly improve user experiences across the board.