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Uber Privacy Settings Raise Concerns for Sen. Franken, App Users

An update for a popular ride service app is raising concerns from some users and one Minnesota senator.

U.S. Sen. Al Franken sent a letter to the president of Uber saying it's not right that the new privacy settings collect your location even when you're not using the app.

Uber has changed the way many get around today, but now the company is keeping a closer eye on you, even after your trip.

"I use it probably on a weekly basis," Minneapolis resident Gabby Brewer said about the app.

The app uses GPS technology to track your location.

"Super easy," Uber user Shamus Zenk said. "They're there super quick."

But now users are seeing an alert asking if the driver can track your location five minutes after the trip ends and when the app isn't even open on the home screen.

Additionally, instead of using your location "while using" the app, the choices are now "never" or "always."

"We're in uncharted territories. For some, it's a cause for concern; others, it's going to be a huge benefit," said Jim Libersky, a cyber security expert and president of Barrier1.

Libersky understands this worries some, but Uber defends the move saying it's "a location-based service" and is only using the information to improve their service.

"The very thing that makes Uber is the efficiency, accuracy and safety," Libersky said. 

If you don't want to share your location, you can still use the app. Just go into settings, find the Uber app and select "never" under location. Even when this setting is turned off, you can still enter a pickup address in the Uber application. 

"Maybe it shouldn't be on all the time. Maybe it becomes a manual step, and that's inconvenient, but we may have to inject that into our daily lives," Libersky said. 

"When you lose people's trust, they're not going to use your service anymore, so they need to make sure they're only using it for what it should be using it for," said Chelsea Clark, an Uber user who lives in Minneapolis.

In a statement Uber says:

"Uber is a location-based service. Until this change, we only collected a riders' location when the app was in the foreground -- i.e. when it was actually open on their home screen. This created challenges with pick-ups, where having the riders' exact location is very important, and drop offs, where knowing building entrances can create safer drop-off experiences. Collecting this data from when the rider requests a trip until five minutes after the trip has finished will help with ETAs, pick-ups, efficiency on POOL and passenger safety. If riders do not want this data collected they can opt-out and still use our service."

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