The move, the latest in a bitter feud between the tech firm and traditional cabs, follows a Buzzfeed report that New York general manager Josh Mohrer had used the company’s “God’s View” technology to track the movements of one of its reporters.
In a letter to Taxi & Limousine Commission (TLC) chairwoman Meera Joshi, Tweeps Phillips, executive director of the Committee for Taxi Safety, wrote she was “horrified but not surprised” by the news.
“We are calling upon the TLC to immediately begin an official investigation into Uber’s usage of passenger data and the “God View” technology. We also ask that their license be suspended until the riding public can be assured that their privacy and data are safe,” she wrote.
The move follows a report that Mohrer told Buzzfeed reporter Johana Bhuiyan he had been tracking her Uber vehicle as she made her way to his office for an interview. Mohrer also emailed Bhuiyan logs of her Uber rides to answer questions she brought up in the interview. Mohrer did not ask for Bhuiyan’s permission before accessing that information, BuzzFeed reported.
That revelation followed a report from BuzzFeed editor Ben Smith reported that one of Uber’s top executives had suggested hiring a team of investigators to dig into the personal lives of journalists who criticised the company.
Chief operating officer Emil Michael singled out Sarah Lacy, the founder of tech site PandoDaily, who has written a series of critical articles about the company. He said the investigators could prove “a particular and very specific claim about her personal life”.
Uber chief executive Travis Kalanick and Michael have both apologised for the remarks. Michael remains with the company.
“The Taxi & Limousine Commission has a duty to protect the public from unsavory businesses and their shady practices,” wrote Phillips.
New York’s powerful taxi lobby has been at war with Uber since its launch. Asked about this week’s public relations disaster earlier this week Joshi described them as “growing pains”.
Phillips said she had great respect for Joshi but it was “pretty ridiculous” to describe Uber’s issues as “growing pains”.
“It’s pretty egregious that they are threatening people with the use of their data. It’s something that the TLC should be concerned about,” she said. She said any other taxi service caught doing similar things would be heavily fined and could have its license revoked. “So why is it that Uber can do this?” she said.
Uber declined to comment.
This article was written by Dominic Rushe in New York, for theguardian.com on Friday 21st November 2014 18.18 Europe/Londonguardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010