And just as a side note, take it with a few grains of salt but I know it's not easy to just trust a company with such personal information, and certainly I wouldn't either, but Uber as a company is very ethical and takes the responsibility that we are entrusted with very seriously.
There are a lot of things we do for our customers that isn't reported by the news, but we always try to do the right thing. Ex. When we had a few outages earlier this year, we made sure that the drivers who were active at the time were "made whole" by paying them for the time we were down.
Yes, there were issues a few years ago with statements and actions that were done, but the Uber today and the employees that work here now take a lot of pride in what they do. I would never have worked here if I didn't feel Uber was an ethical company. And neither would my coworkers. There are thousands of engineers now working here and we would be the first ones who would stand up to management if we felt that something nefarious or even careless was being done with user's personal information. Many of the company values revolve around "toe stepping" and "principled confrontation" and this means even against our own management.
So I know it's not easy to believe, and it's easy for me to say since I work here, but nothing nefarious is going on. If there was, we the engineers would be against it completely.
Probably every company has said that, yet we know how that usually turns out sooner rather than later (I'm looking at you, WhatsApp).
"So I know it's not easy to believe, and it's easy for me to say since I work here, but nothing nefarious is going on. If there was, we the engineers would be against it completely."
For now. What if a new higher manager comes and decides to use this information for other purposes (ad, sale etc.)? Some engineers might quit, but costumers can't take their data back.
My takeaway is: do not trust companies with more data than necessary to provide you a service and this is exactly such case.
Does your company have a set of values to which it says it holds itself and its employees? Excellent - lets play Enron Bingo! Go through your company values and every time one of them matches or strongly overlaps with the list provided in Enrons 1998 Annual Report - Shout "WOOOO" really loudly.
It might be a fun exercise to trawl through the company values of failed / disgraced companies to see if there's any pattern, or compare to genuinely ethical companies (if there is such a thing) to see whether there's a contrast.
Now there are two people who insist on escorting me out of the building.
Hindsight is 20/20, and based on that I personally would say WhatsApp was not ethical even when it was a standalone company. If it had been so, it wouldn't have allowed Facebook to acquire it in the first place! I realize this sounds harsh and probably implies bad motives on the owners, but whatever WhatsApp wrote in its blogs pre-acquisition were all principles that could be sold at the right price. That's exactly what it has come to now that we know how it's being used.
I would also consider it insulting to human intelligence if the WhatsApp founders had truly believed that they would be able to continue with their stated privacy stance after being bought by Facebook, of all companies (what they wrote on the blog at that time can be seen as public posturing).
Cash pressure + lots of valuable assets liquidised legally that just require a change to ToS = said assets for sale + temporary bad PR.
If my company is profitable (or has revenue growth and is likely to become profitable) and a scummy company wants to buy it, I'm going to say no.
Hard as it may be for some of the HN/VC crowd to believe, but there are people out there who start companies with their own money, because they believe in something. At no point does "find some fat megacorp to buy us our" enter the game plan.
Ethics isn't about doing the right thing when it's easy.
For a US company, yes. For EU companies, the EU privacy law says you can only use the data for the original purposes, and based on what the person consented to. You can't grab all data (since that's overbroad), and "consent" can't just be "click through on legalese".
If you're concerened about privacy, don't use US companies.
I understand that this could fall into 'data necessary to provide a better service' as opposed to simply providing the service as-is, but it seems like drop-off point locations are quite fundamental.
Now, if this is to feed into their plans for autonomous taxis, that's all very well because I am really looking forward to being able to summon an autonomous electric car to take me wherever I want to go, but I still don't understand why they care about more than where I actually get out.
Later that evening while on a different computer I noticed in the right-hand margin of facebook an ad for bathroom scales. I was horrified. I felt violated, tracked and spied on. This wasn't spill over from localised cookies. There was a database somewhere keeping track of my online activities and passing that info along to whomever asked for it I guess.
On the one hand nobody cares or is watching what I'm doing. But what if I'm a high school teacher and a female student infatuated with me males advances which after being rebuffed goes public with false accusations of how I tried to rape her, will I be sitting in court watching a prosecutor show a jury the gay monkey porn sites I visit because he or she was able to subpoena this "database" of all my online activity and now because of it I may lose my job or career? I don't know. Maybe that's the whole reason privacy rights are such an issue.
If it means catching bad guys I'm for it but if it means scrutinizing the innocent then yeah of course I don't want my privacy violated.
That should be applauded.
- Algorithmic Labor and Information Asymmetries: A Case Study of Uber’s Drivers https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2686227
- Uber: The Big Data Company http://www.forbes.com/sites/ronhirson/2015/03/23/uber-the-bi...
- How Uber is Selling all Your Ride Data http://www.investopedia.com/articles/investing/030916/how-ub...
- How Uber Profits Even While Its Drivers Aren't Earning Money http://motherboard.vice.com/read/how-uber-profits-even-while...
- Uber claims US regulators collected data from 11m passengers https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2016/apr/12/uber-us-r...
If it wasn't for the apparent money laundry, drivers exploitation, cashing out on desperation, and tax evasion, maybe I could believe that.
https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2016-08-25/uber-lose... (How can the company survive?)
https://beta.companieshouse.gov.uk/search?q=uber (Closing and reopening with different names in the UK. Apparently 4? times so far... Hmm...)
I don't understand how anyone can with a straight face claim that "Uber as a company is very ethical company". I would rank the company management (not drivers) as ethical as the New York mafia.
I've seen this type of story repeatedly after there's been an incident in some city. If it's not Uber it's a hotel chain or similar. It's easy clicks for tabloid newspapers. They probably have a template for this sort of story ready to go. And there will be plenty more ammo for this sort of thing as more companies move to automated pricing models.
Almost everyone who had to pay surge prices that day would not have been directly involved in the explosion (or even seen it). Are companies now supposed to compensate for any bad thing that might be happening in somebody's life? Presumably those who chose to pay surge prices did so because it was still the cheapest/best way of getting home. So even at those prices Uber was better than any alternative.
EDIT: Forgot to mention, it's also possible some people might have only got home that night because of surge pricing, because it increases the number of drivers.
If I had to buy a very expensive airline ticket at the last minute to see a sick relative, would the airline be exploiting me?
Previous HN discussion and article on the Copenhagen Interpretation of Ethics, which is relevant here:
Those links are also pretty weak: all speculation or opinion pieces about things that are out in the open:
1) this is not even close to money laundering?
1) this is just a list of companies with "uber" in their name? besides, it's very common for companies to structure and re-structure themselves without anything unethical going on. it's also common to do it for tax purposes, see below.
2) quite a bold opinion piece about the driver situation. clearly, with so many drivers and customers taking part, it's a matter of opinion. it's reasonable to call it unethical if that's your view but it's not really what the parent meant.
3) pure media hysteria. good to see The Sun as a source on HN.
4) the tax thing again. as it stands, everyone wants to lower their taxes and almost all large companies do this a lot and do it legally. if your view is that they should just volunteer as much tax as possible, you're welcome to that view - there are signs that the law will start to change to be less forgiving of this. however, the specific case in the article is probably the worst example you could pick: the ability to offset losses from previous years isn't even close to being a grey area.
Do cab drivers come in for the same criticism? I've been scammed and lied to so many times by (official) cab drivers and they are absolute sharks for exploiting desperation and ignorance. There are investigative stories linking taxi cab rings with genuine organised crime. I guess they must do perfect tax returns?
I can agree with the weak links. Unfortunately didn't have much time to find better ones. Also, having The Sun as source in HN doesn't give it much of a credibility, but I'm sure there are more reliable sources out there .
I can also agree that this point can be made from a bit of a media hysteria. But a company whose business model makes prevail supply/demand rules on a disaster, seems like a bit sick to me. From my point of view, this is not an ethical company behavior. And when I mean company, I mean company as a whole despite believing there are departments within the company where things are done ethically (parent's point maybe?).
Also, again in my opinion, a company shouldn't attempt tax evasion, by any means p.e. tax evasion schemes (most of them arguably legal) as it impacts all country's and overall economy. This said, I classify most big companies as unethical. This can possibly be one of the main reasons the gap between rich and poor is getting bigger every year as big sharks cash out clean out of the exploited marked.
If a company disagrees with a country's taxation model, ethically, maybe it shouldn't attempt to get to that market?
Company name changes can be seen as tactical maneuvers used for tax evasion also and debt evasion in case the company goes bust.
On previous + ,, altogether, this may present no substantial evidence on money laundry but do you really believe investors would be naively burning billions worth of investment on a company which on 7+ years of existence didn't present, neither is close to presenting, any profit?
I'm not saying cab drivers shouldn't be put through similar criticism, maybe they should. But I think we cannot generalize on that. There are good and bad professionals everywhere.
What I can say, based on what I know from my country, is that cab drivers cannot scam you as their fees are regulated. They cannot charge you more that X per Km as their taximeters are regulated by the government to ensure that. They need to have a professional driving license and be identifiable to the customer. And they're also entitled to pay their taxes accordingly. Of course one can always hear a bad experience from time to time, but again, that is subject to happen in every industry.
In my experience, taxi drivers hide the meter, claim that hours are off-meter, claim there are special fees for certain journeys which don't exist, refuse to take rides they are obligated to take etc. Absolutely not rare at all in major European cities (and endemic in the developing world). I've lost count of how many times I've had it happen, attempted or seen other people targeted with it. This is mostly in major European cities. Formal complaints with the license number don't work ("we'll remind the driver of his obligations").
I don't find this especially unlikely behaviour - they are relatively unmonitored and unaccountable. They are distributed - no reputation as individuals. They deal with a lot of cash, they deal with people who don't know where they are or what the rules are. It's often one person's word against another's. I have plenty of first hand experience of misbehaviour, and I know regulatory body does little to address it.
I find it odd that you assume the best of them - you even say they cannot do anything because a regulation exists. Obviously this is untrue. Yet with Uber your view is borderline conspiracy (despite them also having regulations!). Do you think all currently-unprofitable startups are laundering money on a large scale? Where did these billions and billions of dirty money come from? Is YC itself laundering dirty money through startups? They changed their org structure a few times recently - are they hiding something with this? I've seen multiple YC people write about tax efficiency too!
Yes, agreed, I could have used better words other than cannot do anything because of regulation, of course they can and I'm sure some do. And I'm sure some Uber drivers out there do the exact same, maybe through different means. As I said before, good and bad professionals, you can find them everywhere. It's not something you can generalize.
What I meant is that what distinguishes them from Uber is the fact they are government regulated. I know it may not stands as much, but if everything works as supposed to, it would work well. I'm also assuming you face a different reality (country) different than mine, so not sure if there's a point in going forward with this. Just to finalize on this, some fun fact: in my country every public passenger transportation needs to have a specific insurance (often expensive) and a professional driving license. This is mandatory for every public transportation (cabs included) but Uber. The list of exceptions goes on, and on...
Regarding tax efficiency we share different views as well. And I'm not saying as part of a conspiracy theory of mine thar all unprofitable startups are laundering money on a large scale. A startup is usually expected to start profiting after 5 years and Uber is just far from that.
I also try to put myself on an investor shoes and figure out If I'd invest my money on a company as such. My answer is no.
Regarding this particular question:
> Where did these billions and billions of dirty money come from?
A little bit of conspiracy speculation now: Hidden in tax heavens and needed to be brought to light ;)
There's obviously no hard-and-fast rule about 5 years. Other people value companies differently from you and have greater risk appetite. It's pretty normal for people to have different views on such things (like the morality of various tax arrangements!); that's not evidence of corruption.
> A little bit of conspiracy speculation now: Hidden in tax heavens and needed to be brought to light ;)
That's not where it came from, that's where it currently is (according to you). Even so, a tax heaven is not the same as money that needs laundering.
Agreed. There's no hard rule on that. I just find it hard to believe someone would be up to investing a big chunk of money, for that much amount of time, without having any return. But yes, people choose on what to believe. I prefer to take it this way as I'm past Wonderland a while ago. Let's hope I'm wrong.
> That's not where it came from, that's where it currently is (according to you). Even so, a tax heaven is not the same as money that needs laundering.
I think it can be both actually. And it may need laundering in case there's no justification on where it's coming from.
But again, this is all just conspiracy as Panama papers never happened.
I don't understand why people expect corporations to work as a non-profit
1. Your CEO refers to the impact of his company on his sex life as "Boober". https://pando.com/2014/02/27/we-call-that-boob-er-the-four-m...
2. Uber orders and then cancels thousands of rides of its biggest competitor, Lyft. http://money.cnn.com/2014/08/11/technology/uber-fake-ride-re...
3. Uber exec threatens a journalist Sarah Lacy with a smear campaign. https://pando.com/2016/05/04/npr-proves-once-again-uber-lyin...
4. God mode: Insiders tracked users personal movements and were fined 20k for misusing their access. http://www.theverge.com/2016/1/6/10726004/uber-god-mode-sett...
Your closing statement is spot on: it's not easy to believe "nothing nefarious is going on". For me, it's not even possible.
Even if you would believe Uber is an ethical company (there is good reason to believe for-profit companies generally are not and also good reason Uber especially is not), the underlying problem is that the data could fall into other hands. Three letter agencies can ask for that data, someone could leak the data, etc. I know the last one sounds unlikely but stuff like this happens all the time.
Being clear, my experience never saw misuse of customer info, just some legal but shady-as-shit ways they chose to do business.
EDIT: Sorry, my point being that, while I don't anticipate they'll abuse customer location tracking in the large, I would vehemently dispute the parent poster's supposition that everyone at Uber is super ethical. Rank and file engineer? Yeah, probably fine. Management? I expect TK and his lieutenant bros and bro-ettes will do whatever he can get away with.
Then how come the "while using" option is not there ? the best way of not being careless with sensitive data is not having them in the first place.
I was more hoping you'd try to answer the part that addressed the "While Using" option being removed. I'm guessing that one might also be too difficult to answer honestly in a public forum?
Spying on a journalist: http://www.businessinsider.com/ubers-new-york-manager-invest...
Tracking celebrities and sharing publicly: http://www.forbes.com/sites/kashmirhill/2014/10/03/god-view-...
Makes sense to me, afaik the driver UI shows surge pricing based on an area and not individual users.
- Try canceling your account .. you have to contact their support who will cancel it for you. What i signed up once and you let my account get hacked and dont care and I cant cancel my account myself? I have to wait a week????
- SOmeone I know has leased a car through one of their leasing car companies and it has ruined his life financially with all their nickel and diming and no invoice from them in regards to what he is being charged for. They just brush him off... he works two jobs .. a sales job and Uber to feed his family.
- In a few years all Uber's loyal drivers who use it to get by and feed their families will be screwed over by Uber.
How can anyone call Uber ethical ... it's the epitome of why Hilary Clinton lost as it's all about making huge profits for a very small subset of people at the expense of the majority who Uber is just using to get filthy rich.
Worst company ever run by silicon valley lucky ass unicorn douchebags who don't give a damn about anyone but themselves. Their smug asses need to meet the smack down of govt. regulationS!!!
When did you join Uber? If it was not prior to 2014, what makes you an expert on how the company had mature and, if prior to 2014, why were you not shocked and angry when these events occurred in 2014?
I've heard from you and multiple employees that you would be "shocked or angry" or believe "Uber is a good company and wouldn't have joined otherwise." But I find this hard to believe because if that was the case, then Uber would have lost most of their engineers in the beginning, pre-2014, when they were doing really shady stuff. Maybe you and your colleagues that use Hacker News that publicly commented on this thread would quit if something unethical happened, but words are empty while actions are not and I haven't heard of a case where a large group of Uber engineers or employees are protesting about their company's unethical nature. Color me unconvinced when I hear your words.
What are you basing this on and point me to supporting evidence of this, failing that I need something more convincing than increased headcount as a motivator to give Uber my trust as a consumer again.
and at the same time plays dirty with city councils and hires a lot of lobbyists and slashes prices without advanced warning to drivers? all of those are unethical practices.
The only secure way of collecting data is not collecting data at all.
You've got to understand how directly this clashes with the media coverage re: driver rights.
That is not "the media". Your employer is totally unethical.
Memberberries for President
How would you even know if "something nefarious or even careless was being done"? If there are thousands of employees, wouldn't it just be difficult for everyone to know what everyone else is working on, other "secret initiatives management has sponsored", etc.? There could be so many things happening right now where the information is "above your pay grade". My point is that even if the CEO or CTO or anyone else makes these statements, it's easy to be skeptical considering Uber's history and ethics.
I know many companies that allow one to report issues much higher in the chain, have "no retaliation" policies, and so on, but it's really a stretch to ask employees to fully trust the system and worse, ask people outside the organization to trust the employees and the system.
The problem is when the company starts slowly pushing the boundaries in ways that can be justified if you squint right.
E.g. consider this extra tracking. The feature in itself is fine, as long as the data is protected well enough and not abused.
The problem is that staff not used to think about nefarious uses are likely to defend this kind of collection without thinking about all the tiny little privacy implications.
So when a less moral person suggests a little tweak here or a little tweak there and justify it with a seemingly ok reason, it is likely to fly straight past a lot of people.
Another little change here and there, and suddenly things start to fall out of it that wasn't intended.
How many IBM engineers in the 20's and 30's had any inkling that their work on tabulating machines would aid in the Holocaust? Most would presumably have been horrified. Even the IBM execs that negotiated IBMs deals with Hitler would likely have been utterly horrified. Each little step was just one tiny step further from the last, and most had plausible positive spin on them. And the worst was hidden from them.
This is the difficult part of ensuring the morality of corporations, or organizations, or society in general: It is incredibly hard to get a sufficient overview to be able to predict whether any given action will contribute to an immoral outcome. Even when you're right there, "flicking the switch" that finally ties it all together. It's just one more tiny step, that from ground level will often not seem any different than the last step, which turned out ok.
The only way of ensuring the a corporation acts morally, is not to act morally, but to act specifically to take steps that binds the corporation so it is unable to do bad things:
Make sure you don't have data that can be abused, if at all possible, or at least destroy it as soon as possible.
Make sure you have systems that actively prevent staff from accessing data they have no need for.
Consider if you can transform data in ways that makes it less intrusive (e.g. if you don't need the full precision of certain location data, reduce the precision; if you don't need to be able to tie it to a certain individual, anonymise; if you only need aggregate/summary data, aggregate/summarise as early as possible and aggressively purge the raw data).
Ever barrier you remove from access to data, creates opportunities for innocent-sounding requests that turns out to have immoral reasons.
E.g. I've had managers request data from ex-customers that wuld have been in backups except for aggressive policies on purging it, where it turned out that rather than legitimately e.g. wanting to help them recover data, said manager wanted to hand the data to another manager, without realising that said other manager was planning on mining said ex-customers data for sales leads for a new product that would directly compete with them.
Flagrant violation of our contracts, and of UK data protection laws. But the initial request sounded innocent enough, and I only found the reason because I'm extremely paranoid about these things. The manager that made the request didn't suspect a thing, for example.
Actually not having the data made refusing the request a lot easier, and also prevented the manager that wanted the data from trying to find ways around me.
As a side note, I was mainly talking abt Uber. Your post seems generic and your concerns apply to every large tech company. Most of these companies already have policies in place such as audit trail for data access, access control etc.
I'm saying that to "avoid evil" in the future it is insufficient for current developers to be ethical now.
You need to build systems that actively make it difficult, so that it takes persistence and intent to overcome if you want to do something bad whenever possible. Force people to face that they are putting in effort to bypass restrictions and breaking rules to do what they want to do, instead of "just" accessing data that are readily available to them, and far more will question the justification for requests they are given.
Look I'm sure you believe that but there's many many many many data points that show that that's just not the case.
There are fairly substantial quantities of legal documentation that are evidence against this remarkable claim. They get covered here frequently.
HAHAHAHAHA Nice try!
> The ride-sharing company said that between July and December 2015, it had provided information on more than 12 million riders and drivers to various U.S. regulators and on 469 users to state and federal law agencies.
>the company's blog titled "Rides of Glory." The company examined its rider data, sorting it for anyone who took an Uber between 10 p.m. and 4 a.m. on a Friday or Saturday night. Then it looked at how many of those same people took another ride about four to six hours later – from at or near the previous nights' drop-off point. (...) Uber has deleted the blog post
>Earlier this month Angie Bird woke up at her home in London to discover she had been billed for a series of minicab journeys she had allegedly made the previous evening … in the Mexican cities of Guadalajara and Aguascalientes, more than 5,500 miles away.
>Uber is using GPS to punish drivers in China who get too close to protests
>Study: Uber and Lyft have ‘pattern of discrimination’ against black passengers. Waiting times for black Seattle passengers were 35% longer, and Boston drivers cancelled rides for black passengers more than twice as frequently, study found
>According to internal Uber emails, the investigation began with a note from Uber’s general counsel, Sallie Yoo. The day that Schmidt filed the complaint against Kalanick, Yoo sent an email to Uber’s chief security officer, saying, "Could we find out a little more about this plaintiff?" The request was forwarded to the company’s head of Global Threat Intelligence, Mathew Henley.
>Uber as a company is very ethical and takes the responsibility that we are entrusted with very seriously
Please go with your bullshit somewhere else.
Proceeds to introduce multiple points of failure.
Why should I EVER trust Uber to obey the law or act ethnically towards me, when they already why as if laws are optional?
Uber can get fucked.
IPO, new management, all that data to sell.
or (more likely)
Bankruptcy, all that loss to recoup
Ethics of today don't mean a thing.
Yes, sure. There is always some sort of "reason" to "justify" mass surveillance. F that.
It's just NOT acceptable. I'll never use Uber again.
Put your money where your mouth is - explicitly state in your terms of service specific safeguards of my data and large monetary rewards for a beach of those terms on your part...you never do anything bad with our data right? This should be easy...
Has Uber considered reforming as a European company, under EU data protection law? That would a nice way to show that you take privacy very seriously.
same would go working at any sufficiently large org
In 2014, senior executive Emil Michael suggested using their service to dig up dirt on reporters.
They further tracked a Buzzfeed reporter when she was late to a meeting with one of their executives, without her permission.
The Uber data science team once used sensitive customer data to find a correlation between their ride data and prostituion, which was highlighted when it was quietly taken down. Lest you think this was a one-off blog, then I refer you to the one entitled "Rides of Glory"  that tracked the one-night stands of their riders (you just can't make this shit up).
At Uber's Boston launch party they thought it would be hilarious to track 30 users in what they dubbed "Creepy Stalker View", and one executive, Chris Sims, was shown travelling around in a car - live - causing him to quit the service in outrage.
Nice try, Travis Kalanick.