Uber will let drivers track your location, but only if you agree (update)

Uber has rewritten its privacy policy to make it easier to grok and added some very important changes. According to the updated guidelines, the ride-sharing app will soon give drivers the power to track your location if you allow it to, so long as it remains running in the background. This, Uber claims, will allow them to pick you up a lot faster than just dropping a pin to signal where you're waiting. Drivers will be able to meet you on the way, for instance, or right out the door you used to exit a large building. Also, the app will start asking for permission to access your contact list, so the service can send promotional materials to your friends and family.

This update comes after an external review of Uber's privacy program, prompted by a series of issues and PR catastrophes involving customer privacy. If you recall, some Uber employees used the "God View" tracker embedded in the app to spy on the whereabouts of a Buzzfeed reporter and a high-profile venture capitalist last year. All its corporate employees (but not its drivers) reportedly had access to God View and could monitor a user's activities. Let's not forget the time an exec made a remark about hiring a team to dig up personal dirt on journalists that criticize the service, as well.

In addition to the aforementioned changes, the new privacy policy lists what kind of data it collects from customers. It makes clear that Uber keeps a record of your transactions (amount, distance traveled, date and time, et cetera) and gathers info about your device (model, OS version, serial number, UDID, mobile network, preferred language and more). Uber can access any call and SMS details between the driver and yourself, as well as see your device's IP address, browser, the website you visited before it, so on and so forth.

The new Privacy Statement will take effect on July 15th, so expect to see the app asking you for permission to switch on real-time tracking and to access your address book by then. If you're not exactly fond of these changes, don't worry: the company told TechCrunch that the app will work just fine even if you choose not to switch them on.

Update (June 1st, 2015): An Uber spokesperson has clarified to Engadget that tracking passengers in real time and accessing users' address books are merely "potential new use cases." The company has no solid plans to roll those features out at the moment "We are not currently collecting this data and have no plans to start on July 15," she said. "If we decide to ask for these permissions, users will be in control and choose whether they want to share the data with Uber." The spokesperson also assured us that if the company ever launches those features, the app will still work even if you opt out.