New tool means its staff know less about you.
Ride sharing service Uber has had so many misdeeds and allegations lobbed in its collective direction that it’s become almost synonymous with shady business, but a new announcement proves just how much the company really cares about your privacy. It will be introducing an open-source tool soon that will allow engineers in any field to gather and use mission-critical data without accessing any personal information.
The system is called FLEX, an open-source tool based on a concept they’re calling elastic sensitivity. Its primary function is to weed out any sensitive privacy-related information before the engineer runs a query. For example, wanting to know how many people use Uber to get to church on any given Sunday is a little different than running a search for how many users last month took the ride-sharing service to a strip club. One of those scenarios is fairly innocuous, while the other has implications for data breaches and extortion written all over it.
With elastic sensitivity, researchers don’t need to find out any personal information in order to compile data. This has huge benefits for any field, not just the much-plagued ride sharing service, as weighing privacy concerns and the users’ terms and conditions against the need for data is an obstacle in research.
Now, this is all well and good. But Uber has a long history of flaunting its own rules and showboating just how much information it can retrieve. The infamous BuzzFeed reporter debacle is just one example, followed up by a venture capitalist whose ride route was plastered on massive screens during an Uber event, followed up by a company executive recently accessing a rape victim’s medical records, followed up by… and the list goes on.
Too little, too late?
This promise of data security might be a little too late for some customers who are unhappy with both the backwards approach to confidentiality and the widely reported sexism within the company. While the board and current leadership scramble to paint a new face on the company, moves like this one could either be a step in the right direction or just smoke and mirrors about how customer-centric they claim to be.
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