Uber tracked phones even after users deleted their app

A new report suggests that Uber monitored users’ phones even after they’d deleted the Uber app – and that Apple clashed with them over it when they found out.

The New York Times is reporting that the fall-out was so bad Apple boss Tim Cook threatened to remove the taxi app from its App Store; which would essentially have killed the company.

The accusations refer to a tool installed on the Uber app that allowed the company to monitor when the app was removed and reinstalled onto users’ phones. Uber claimed that the tool was to fight against fraud and that such tools were common practice. However, Apple say it is in breach of their privacy rules, as it was kept completely secret from users.

The tool in question is known as “fingerprinting”, and allows Uber to identify phones that have identified the app, so the business could tell if and when it was re-installed. This means that if users had been flagged as potentially committing fraud, they weren’t able to just delete the app and start again.

Uber have confirmed that their “fingerprinting” techniques have now changed, to comply with Apple’s privacy rules.

“We absolutely do not track individual users or their location if they’ve deleted the app,” an Uber spokesperson said. “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.”

Do you mind apps tracking your phone even after you’ve removed it, or is that a step too far? Let us know in the comments below!

Author Lex Barber


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