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Report: Apple threatened to pull Uber after app tracked users without permission

Luke Johnson

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Uber

In terms of good publicity, it’s not been the best couple of months for ride-sharing service Uber.

From being hit with a nationwide ban in Italy to repeated claims of sexism in the workplace and law-dodging rule breaking, the app-based taxi company has hit the headlines again for its questionable practices.

According to new reports, Apple threatened to pull Uber from the App Store back in 2015 after it was discovered the service was wrongfully tracking users without their permission.

It’s claimed that Uber had been “fingerprinting” iPhones with permanent identities, letting the company monitor users’ phones even after the Uber app had been deleted.

As well as breaking Apple’s iOS app privacy guidelines, it’s suggested that Uber actively looked to hide the matter from the Cupertino company, with Uber boss Travis Kalanick reportedly telling his team to “obfuscate” the app’s wrongdoings from anyone at Apple’s headquarters.

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uberdrive

Inevitably, Apple found out, with Kalanick called in front of Apple CEO Tim Cook personally. It’s claimed that Cook threatened to ditch the Uber app from App Store entirely, a move that could have sunk the ride-sharing platform.

It’s suggested that Uber looked to track users’ iPhones in a bid to prevent its drivers creating fake accounts and accepting false rides to boost their numbers.

Since the meeting in 2015, it’s believed that Uber has removed the fingerprinting feature, with the company now claiming it “absolutely does not” track individual users in such a manner.

“We absolutely do not track individual users on their location if they’ve deleted the app,” an official Uber spokesperson told Engadget.

“As the New York Time story notes towards the 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 recognise known bad actors when they try to get back onto our network is an important security measure for both Uber and our users.”

Apple has yet to comment on the claims.

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Have all of Uber’s bad practices put you off using the service? Let us know in the comments below.

Hamish Campbell

April 24, 2017, 10:37 am

Also banned in Denmark :) good riddance.

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