Damage Control: Uber Taps Law Firm to Review Privacy Practices

Step Aimed at Firming Up Behavior, and Image

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Uber has hired law firm Hogan Lovells' data-privacy experts to conduct an internal data-privacy review, moving to tamp down criticism after an executive discussed prying on journalists' private lives.

Uber said in a blog post today that it hired Harriet Pearson, formerly the chief privacy officer at IBM and now a partner at Hogan Lovells, to work with the San Francisco-based startup. Pearson said in a phone call that she will work for Uber as a legal adviser.

"Our business depends on the trust of the millions of riders and drivers who use Uber," Uber wrote in the blog. "Hogan Lovell will conduct an in-depth review and assessment of our existing data privacy program."

An Uber representative declined to comment beyond the blog post.

Uber has been grappling with a growing controversy after one of its executives, Emil Michael, recently said the company would be willing to pay to look into reporters' lives. Another Uber manager is also under investigation after using a tool in the app known as "God View" to track a journalist at online publication BuzzFeed without her permission, a person with knowledge of the matter has said.

The incidents have prompted a wave of criticism. Minnesota's Senator Al Franken, a Democrat who chairs the Senate subcommittee on privacy, technology and the law, sent a letter yesterday to Uber asking for answers on the startup's privacy policies.

Deleting the app
Some users have said they have also deleted the Uber app from their smartphones following the incidents. Some consumers have also taken to social media to promote the hashtags #BoycottUber and #deleteuber.

Uber had clarified its privacy policy earlier this week, saying employees would only access data for issues like monitoring for fraudulent activity and solving problems.

"The policy is also clear that access to rider and driver accounts is being closely monitored and audited by data security specialists on an ongoing basis," the company said in a blog post earlier this week. "Any violations of the policy will result in disciplinary action, including the possibility of termination and legal action."

~ Bloomberg News ~

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