Do you use Uber? Millions of people do around the world, as Uber has changed the way we move around -- especially in major cities, while cab drivers continue to mull over their future with such ride hailing apps being the new wave of public transportation. However, the days of Uber on the Apple App Store might be numbered, no thanks to their app being able to identify iPhones secretly -- even when the Uber app has been removed from the iPhone. This is a clear breach in the terms and conditions, and Apple CEO Tim Cook is far from happy with the situation. After all, Apple has drawn a very clear line when it comes to the privacy of its iPhone users, having stood its ground in the face of FBI demands to access the San Bernardino shooter’s iPhone a couple of years back.
Uber CEO Travis Kalanick must be sweating it out now, keeping his fingers crossed that the Uber app might be pulled out from the App Store. The reason behind this? Kalanick actually instructed his software engineers to cover up a feature in the Uber app which would allow Uber to identify and tag iPhone users. This function continues to work perfectly fine even though the Uber app has been removed from the iPhone, and this is a clear violation of Apple's app privacy rules. The thing is, would Apple retaliate by removing Uber from the App Store? Uber is not an essential app to have, but it has become part and parcel of many a commuter on a daily basis. To not have Uber any more might sway certain folks to the Android camp, so it is a decision that Apple would also have to think through carefully.
Cook reportedly spoke to Kalanick in a calm manner, "So, I've heard you've been breaking some of our rules." From there, Cook asked Uber to quit their game of cloak and daggers, while wielding the axe over Uber’s presence in the Apple's App Store as an “incentive” to comply as soon as possible.
Needless to say, Uber needs Apple far more than Apple needs Uber, and Kalanick obediently complied with what Cook asked of him and his company. To lose access to millions of iPhone users would be a huge blow to Uber, and it might actually cripple them. Uber’s “defense” for incorporating this tracking and identifying feature? To weed out frauds.
Uber shared in a statement, "We absolutely do not track individual users or their location if they've deleted the app. As the New York Times story notes towards the very end, this is a typical way to prevent fraudsters from loading Uber onto a stolen phone, putting in a stolen credit card, taking an expensive ride and then wiping the phone -- over and over again. Similar techniques are also used for detecting and blocking suspicious logins to protect our users' accounts. Being able to recognize known bad actors when they try to get back onto our network is an important security measure for both Uber and our users."
Just how much trust is there left in the tank between Uber riders and the company with such a track record?