I was going through my credit card statement this weekend (HAHAHA, WHY, SVOKOS, WHY) and hopped into my Uber app to see why I spent $37 on a trip last month.
But when I opened the app, an alarming screen popped up:
The app had updated and apparently now wanted some change in location tracking. So I clicked on location services to see what exactly was up.
And, oh boy, I freaked out:
The app apparently wanted to track me all the time, everywhere I go. The only location access options available are "Never" or "Always."
As a paranoid, informed app user, this freaked me out.
Don't get me wrong, Uber has been useful to me, but it still makes me anxious since it has some shady history, especially where user privacy is concerned.
First of all, Uber knows that you'll pay surge pricing if your phone is running low on batteries. Shady.
Second of all, women regularly have to pay more for rides because drivers will talk to them and make rides longer. Shady.
Third of all, sexual assaults do occur in Ubers. Now, those cases are extremely rare, but I am a woman concerned for my safety. Statistics mean nothing to the individual, and, as previously mentioned, I'm paranoid.
So this whole idea that Uber wants to see where I am "Always" freaked me out.
Apparently, Uber only wants to track you for a specific amount of time.
As they say in the "Location" explanation, Uber only wants to track your location information when you're not using the app for the five minutes after a trip ends.
Is that somehow supposed to make me feel safer??????
It's not unusual for women to be followed home and attacked.
So why exactly would I feel safe knowing a stranger might be able to track my location for five minutes when I'm potentially alone after a night out?
And yes, of course, I know Uber drivers are generally good people. And yes, I understand Uber wants to track your location to improve their services -- not for drivers to know where you are.
But you know what? Still paranoid!
Aside from that threat, there's just the creepy idea that Uber is following me around. If the app is collecting data for five minutes after a ride ends, it could reasonably figure out the precise location of my bedroom.
Why, exactly, would I want a transportation service to know where my bed is?
If you click the "Never" option for location services, the app makes it an extra hassle.
Every time you open the app, you'll get the pop-up telling you to allow location tracking access.
If you choose not to use location tracking, you can manually input your location when you request pick-ups.
I'm not sure what that means if you're someone like me (read: paranoid) who uses the feature where you send your current ride status to your sister or boyfriend to make sure you get somewhere safely.
As for me, I'm going to keep location services off for as long as possible if this update isn't changed. Paranoia has gotten me home safely this long, and I'm not about to give that up.
(Oh, and that $37 ride last month? Getting home drunk BUT SAFELY from a party in Brooklyn. Ugh.)