“Deleting this app will also delete its data, but any documents or data stored in iCloud will not be deleted.”
You’ve read this notification before. It shows up every time you want to delete a particular app off your phone. When you press continue, the data is supposed to be wiped from your device.
Apparently Uber didn’t get the memo.
According to a report by the New York Times, Uber has been tracking users even after they delete the app from their phones. Needless to say, Apple is on a rampage. Considering how highly we value our private information, it’s no wonder that Apple is trying to shut down Uber’s nasty plot to track us.
Uber is known to use an invasive tracking tool called “fingerprinting,” which allows them to identify phones that downloaded their app. Regardless of whether you deleted it later, Uber kept your phone’s ID and watched if you re-downloaded it. The company claimed that it was a way to prevent fraudulent activity on your phone, but I’m pretty sure what they’re doing is illegal.
Once Apple caught onto their tracking scheme, they wasted no time contacting them. Tim Cook, the CEO of Apple, confronted Uber CEO Travis Kalanick about their privacy violations. Cook said, “I’ve heard you’ve been breaking some of our rules,” and then threatened to remove Uber from the app store. Considering the traffic the Apple App store gets, Uber could lose out on millions, if not billions, of dollars.
Uber later claimed that it would change its fingerprint tracking so that it complied with Apple’s privacy rules. In other words, they’re probably still going to low-key stalk us.
An Uber spokesperson attempted to ease public outcry:
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 recognise known bad actors when they try to get back onto our network is an important security measure for both Uber and our users.
Since then, Uber has added a feature where it continues to track people even after closing the app. They stressed that it only lasted for five minutes and was done for the user’s protection. What can Uber even do to protect us in those five minutes? It still sounds sketchy. Well, at least now I can delete Uber off my phone with some semblance of privacy. Thanks, Apple.