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Sen. Franken questions Uber amid privacy concerns

Sen. Franken questions Uber amid privacy concerns

(THE MED CITY BEAT) - Sen. Al Franken is calling on Uber to answer a series of questions on consumer privacy, following concerning comments made by a senior executive for the company.

BuzzFeed News reports the executive, Emil Michael, suggested that the company should consider hiring a team of opposition researchers to dig up dirt on its critics in the media. The executive made the comments on Monday in a conversation he believed was off the record and later retracted them. Ben Smith of BuzzFeed News writes:

Over dinner, he outlined the notion of spending ‘a million dollars’ to hire four top opposition researchers and four journalists. That team could, he said, help Uber fight back against the press — they’d look into ‘your personal lives, your families,’ and give the media a taste of its own medicine.
— 11/17

The company's CEO, Travis Kalanick, has apologized and said the remarks were "terrible" and "do not represent the company." The company also addressed the controversy with a blog post on its privacy policy.

But that's not enough for Franken, who chairs the Senate Subcommittee on Privacy, Technology and the Law. In a letter to Kalanick, Franken questions whether the actions of the company are consistent with its privacy policy:

It has been reported that a tool known as ‘God view’ is ‘widely available to most Uber corporate employees’ and allows employees to track the location of Uber customers who have requested car service. In at least one incident, a corporate employee reportedly admitted to using the tool to track a journalist. The journalist’s permission had not been requested, and the circumstances of the tracking do not suggest any legitimate business purpose.
— 11/19

Franken also laid out 10 questions for Kalanick on the company's management and privacy practices, including what disciplinary actions are being taken against Michael for his remarks. Franken requested a response by Dec. 15.

Uber is a ridesharing service headquartered in San Francisco, which operates in more than 200 cities in 45 countries. Minneapolis is the only Minnesota city where the service is available. 

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