iOS 11 Forces Uber to Relax Aggressive Location Tracking

iOS 11 Forces Uber to Relax Aggressive Location Tracking

Late last year, a number of Uber users were dismayed to learn of the ride-hailing app’s intentions to collect their background data and to continue tracking their whereabouts even after they’ve reached their destination.

In response to the flak, Uber defended its decision, claiming that its data collection efforts were necessary to enhance the accuracy of its pick-ups and drop-offs. In any case, the company left its customers with little choice: users could either opt-in to location tracking wholesale (“Always”) or refuse it entirely (“Never”), which would hamstring the user experience rendered by the app. While Uber promised that it would limit its location tracking to a period of 5 minutes after drop-off, many were leery of the practice.

Now, Uber users, won’t be faced with such an unpalatable decision, thanks in part to iOS. Following months of heavy criticism for its privacy practices and other corporate scandals, Uber announced last month that it would restore when-in-use authorization in an updated version of the app that would be released on iPhones.

The rollout of Apple’s next mobile platform, iOS 11, gives users the option to authorize location services only when an app (Uber or otherwise) is in use, even if an app developer demands more expansive authorization. In a notice to developers, Apple recommended that they “request only when-in-use authorization whenever possible”. The notice also admonished app makers “always request authorization at the point where [they] actually plan to use location services to perform a task”, which would likely entail pushing alerts to users and giving them the option to deny the request.

The new rules have forced Uber to give users the third option of permitting location tracking only “while using the app”. Uber’s updated iOS app, which is also available on iOS 10, gives users a third option to share location data “while using the app”.

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