By Sabreena Khalid – Edited by Insue Kim
Following scandals earlier this month revolving around the use of personal user information, the 30 billion dollar tech giant, Uber, hired Harriet Pearson, former chief privacy officer at IBM, to “conduct an in-depth review and assessment of [the] existing data privacy program." USA Today.
Uber’s recent hire of Pearson is part of the company’s attempt to regain consumer trust in its business and privacy policies. According to BuzzFeed and Slate, the company has explicitly distanced itself from the acts of both officers, stating that it does not conduct any kind of opposition research on journalists, and that it restricts all employees’ access to driver or user data except for “a limited set of legitimate business purposes”.
Whereas the use of loosely-defined terms such as “other matters,” “investigate” and “prevent” has been common in privacy policies of many companies dealing with online users’ personal information, the discretion that such loosely defined terms grant companies is a legitimate cause for concern. In Uber’s case in particular, the unfettered right to “prevent” violations or illegal activities perhaps implicates that personal information can be accessed anytime, without judicial oversight, on the pretext of thwarting violations which may or may not occur. Moreover, the fact that Uber may retain personal information for an indefinite period of time is a major source of alarm for many.