Thursday, March 29, 2018

Mainstream media supporting data collection and mass surveillance tool Uber?

Following on from Australia's mainstream media's recent attention to Facebook's data collection, it seems that the Rupert Murdoch news empire is promoting the use of Uber (deliberately) without warning users of it's massive data collection and mass surveillance capability.

Here are some of the reasons, as documented by Richard Stallman:

Reasons not to use Uber

We should not accept the promotional term "sharing economy" for companies like Uber. That is spin. A more accurate term is "piecework subcontractor economy".
Uber is a big advance in massive surveillance. Unlike a taxi, an Uber car can't be used anonymously. You can't pay cash. It also requires use of nonfree software, which mistreats the user.
Because I reject technology that mistreats me, I will never order or pay for an Uber car. Because Uber threatens to eliminate the taxis that are acceptable to use, I go beyond that: I will not let someone order an Uber car for me. How about joining me?
Users' Freedom
Abuse of Drivers
Comparison to Real Taxis


  • Uber collects data about passengers, then uses the data to profile them in various ways.
  • Uber requires passengers to identify themselves, both to order a ride and to pay. (Uber offers some users in a few places the option of paying cash, but they are still tracked and identified when ordering the ride.)
  • It also records where you get the ride and where you go with it.
  • Uber can track who has a one-night stand. In fact, it did so.
  • Uber has started tracking users' movements before and after rides. In August 2017, Uber made it possible to turn that extra tracking off, but it is still enabled by default, and most customers won't think to turn it off.
    That is only a tiny step forward.
  • people whose accounts have been stolen.
  • Uber hacked Lyft's ride-management server with phony accounts in order to identify people that were driving for Lyft.
  • Uber plans to snoop on users' locations and contacts all the time. Uber has the technical possibility to do this because its app is nonfree: it is controlled by Uber, not by the user. In addition, snooping depends on a nonfree operating system. With a free system, the user could tell the system to lie to the Uber app.
  • The US government can get those records, and any lawsuit (such as a divorce lawsuit) can subpoena them.
  • Uber gave the US government data on millions of customers.
  • Uber's clever policy of not being directly responsible for anything that goes wrong extends to harassment by drivers, and its practice of identifying passengers enables drivers to find out who the passenger is. This makes some women scared to use Uber. This problem comes directly out of the practices listed above that mistreat all users of Uber.
  • Uber executives and staff have stalked passengers in various ways. If you take an ordinary taxi and pay cash, it will generate no records associated with you — except in New York City where the government might apply face recognition to identify your photo in real time.
  • To recover our privacy and make democracy safe, we need to redesign digital systems so that they do not collect information about people in general. First step, don't help any new ones gain a foothold.

Users' Freedom

  • Uber requires customers to run a nonfree program (an app). As always, a nonfree program tramples its users' freedom. I'm not talking about the software that Uber runs in its servers; that does not directly affect customers. If some of that software is nonfree, it tramples Uber's freedom, but not the customers' freedom. The nonfree software and digital services that Uber requires its users to use attack their freedom in various ways.
  • The Uber app requires running other nonfree software (in the case of Android, Google Play).
  • Uber is trying again to force all customers to agree to arbitration of disputes — rather than lawsuits.

Abuse of Drivers


Comparison to Real Taxis

  • When taxi drivers struck to protest the troll's partial Muslim ban, Uber took the opportunity to undercut the strike.
  • Cities and even public service campaigns are outsourcing transportation to Uber, which is a form of privatization of public transit. This excludes poor people, and subjects those who do use the service to being tracked. Lyft is no better than Uber in this regard.
  • Uber has changed the regulations that cover charging passengers for making cars wait. This decision itself may not be objectionable. Taxis typically charge for making them wait. But that regulation is set by a city agency which is at least somewhat responsible to the people. Uber is a business headquartered somewhere else, which accepts no responsibility to the people of any city.
    We should not allow a company to privatize the making of the regulations that create our social order.
  • Uber plans to do away with human cab drivers. It would be easy for a non-plutocratic government to prohibit this, and that's what every country ought to do, unless/until every person gets an adequate basic income so people don't need to be employed.
  • With real taxis, you can flag one on the street or phone in any fashion; you can pay cash; you can be anonymous.
  • Beware of thinking of Uber as one more option in addition to real taxis. At the moment, that's true, but if Uber is a big success, real taxis could disappear.
    Then what will you do, if you don't want to tell Big Brother where you are going?


  • Uber investigated a lawyer handling a lawsuit against Uber's policy of surge pricing, using methods that may reach the domain of illegality.
  • Guber programmed its system for special treatment of people that might be investigating accusations of violating municipal regulations. The special treatment was that the system would say a car was coming, but no car would ever arrive.
    Uber has the ability to do this because it forces all its clients to identify themselves — which is fundamentally unjust.
  • Uber's autonomous cars frequently violate traffic laws.
    Uber tries to put the blame on human safety monitors, who could in principle intervene to stop this.
    That's the general Uber attitude: profits to the company, burdens to the drivers.
    I would guess that the safety monitors would be hard-pressed to react fast enough to prevent these maneuvers — which would mean that they are an excuse and a scapegoat, not a real safety system.
  • Uber operated a team to spy on competitors and to "impede, obstruct or influence" legal investigations, according to an ex-manager who was involved with the team.
  • Uber blames state governments for eliminating cities' power to regulate such companies.
  • Uber imposes arbitration on customers for all complaints, including rape by drivers, and this covers up the prevalence of the problem.
    No company should be allowed to require its customers or its workers (whether labeled "employee" or "independent contractors") to use arbitration instead of going to court.


Copyright (c) 2014-2016 Richard Stallman Verbatim copying and redistribution of this entire page are permitted provided this notice is preserved.

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