In the digitally connected world we live in, we sometimes discover that increasing our convenience means sacrificing some of our privacy.
Unfortunately, there appears to be a growing consumer mindset that giving up your personal information, your daily activity, and your physical location are just the price you have to pay to use that latest in time-saving technology.
One company that has come under fire over the years for a lax approach to customer privacy is Uber. The ride sharing company’s model is truly a game changer in the world of freelance-driven customer service, but their entire function hinges on knowing where you are by tracking your cell phone. It’s literally how a driver knows where to and when to pick you up. The ease with which you can find a ride depends on the driver who is closest to your location being able to take the fare.
As a result, Uber has faced a laundry list of privacy complaints, some of them intentional and some purely accidental. For its part, the company’s stance tends to be that they cannot increase productivity and reduce customers’ wait times without access to this level of private information.
The trade-off for the customer is that software developers and engineers cannot make improvements to their products without analyzing data about how well the system works. In Uber’s case, though, everyone from the driver to the IT department to the marketing department had access to your location, your cell phone’s unique identifying serial number, and more. In light of efforts to improve their public image and increase customer trust, they’ve now unveiled an open-source software tool that can still allow them to improve their business model without exposing your information to an endless line of employees.
Uber’s new FLEX system relies on what they’re calling “elastic sensitivity.” It means giving users only the information they need to do their job without letting them see data they don’t need. By making this tool available in the open-source format, Uber is encouraging other companies to use the tool, tweak it to suit their business needs, and even improve it for everyone involved.
This renewed focus on privacy couldn’t come at a better time for both Uber and the public. Data breaches continue to set records each year for the numbers of events that have taken place, especially in the Business sector. While many people think of highly-skilled hackers in these breaches, in far too many cases it occurred accidentally as a result of an employee unintentionally exposing the victims’ data or by an “insider” who has access to the information. More efforts such as this one could lead to a dramatic improvement in preventing both of those kinds of needless data breaches.