Uber New York executive allegedly "tracked BuzzFeed journalist using God View tool"

Guy Bentley
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Troubles are mounting for taxi app company Uber after it confirmed it will investigate one its New York executives for allegedly tracking a Buzzfeed journalist without her permission.

If true, the tracking would be in violation of Uber's own privacy policy, released on Tuesday.

Earlier this month, BuzzFeed reporter Johana Bhuiyan travelled to interview Uber's New York general manager Josh Mohrer. When she arrived, Mohrer said he had been tracking her while gesturing at his iPhone. Two ex-Uber employees told BuzzFeed News that tracking customers was easy thanks to a tool called "God View", which shows the location of Uber users and drivers.

The tool can be accessed with ease by corporate employees. However drivers, who operate as contractors, don't have access to God View.

Josh Mohrer also emailed Bhuiyan logs of some of her Uber trips in response to questions she had asked about rival taxi app Lyft.

Uber told BuzzFeed its data was only used for legitimate business purposes and that any wrongdoing would lead to disciplinary action.

Uber's privacy policy states:

Uber has a strict policy prohibiting all employees at every level from accessing a rider or driver’s data.

The only exception to this policy is for a limited set of legitimate business purposes.

BuzzFeed recounted the experience of venture capitalist Peter Sims in 2011, who received messages from someone at an Uber launch party telling him she knew where he was. Sims' movements were being tracked via God View and were displayed on a large public screen.

Yesterday, Uber's chief executive Travis Kalanick took to Twitter to apologise after a senior member of the company suggested experts should investigate the private lives of hostile journalists to hit back for bad publicity.

Kalanick said the remarks made by Emil Michael were "terrible".

His remarks showed a lack of leadership, a lack of humanity, and a departure from our values and ideals. His duties here at Uber do not involve communications strategy or plans and are not representative in any way of the company approach.

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