Consumer Watchdog Files Complaint with FTC Over Uber’s Unfair and Deceptive Tracking

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SANTA MONICA, CA – Consumer Watchdog today filed a formal complaint with the Federal Trade Commission charging that Uber Technologies had deceptively tracked users of its app after people thought they had deleted it from their iPhone.

“The Commission should not be surprised by Uber’s abuses. It is a renegade technology and transportation company whose executives pride themselves on a disruptive, rule-breaking approach to business,” wrote John M. Simpson, the nonprofit nonpartisan group’s Privacy Project Director. “It is long past time for the company and its CEO Travis Kalanick to be held accountable for their actions which regularly flout the law.”

Read Consumer Watchdog’s formal complaint here:

Consumer Watchdog’s complaint focuses on Uber and the mobile app that is the backbone of the company’s business. According to the New York Times, Uber continued to track iPhone users who had once installed the Uber app even after they believed they had deleted it from their device. Uber was obviously aware of the deceptive nature of its activities because it went to great efforts to hide its activities from Apple, which distributed the Uber app through its application store, iTunes, Consumer Watchdog said. Uber “geo-fenced” the area around Apple’s headquarters so that Apple engineers there would not discover the tracking abuse.

Ultimately Apple engineers working from other locations discovered the secret tracking made possible by Uber’s deceptive activities. Apple CEO Tim Cook confronted Kalanick and threatened to remove the Uber app from iTunes app store unless the deceptive abuse stopped.

Even if Uber complied with Appel’s request the FTC should act, to enjoin Uber from such deceitful tracking and similar deceptive activities, Consumer Watchdog said. The complaint explained:

“It is important that the Commission take a position to block this unfair and deceptive activity, for based on the company’s record it is likely to engage in the activity again. Moreover, Consumers who were tracked likely suffered actual harm and Uber should be required to disgorge the money it received as a result of its unfair and deceptive acts.

“In addition, the Commission should investigate what is happening with the Uber app designed for Android devices and distributed through Google’s app store, Google Play. While Uber may have discontinued deceitful tracking on iPhones, there is no reason to believe it is not conducting the same deceptive tracking on Android phones unbeknownst to consumers.”

Consumer Watchdog called on the Commission first to fully investigate both the iPhone and Android versions of Uber’s app. It said the FTC must first ensure that the unfair and deceptive tracking of users after they have deleted the Uber app, does not occur. The Commission should then enjoin Uber from ever engaging in this deceptive tracking practice.

Second, Consumer Watchdog said, the Commission should carefully scrutinize the Uber app’s privacy policy to ensure that it accurately and clearly describes Uber’s actual practices to consumers.

“Based on Uber’s history, Consumer Watchdog believes it is extremely likely that privacy policy is not an accurate description of Uber’s activities,” the complaint concluded. “If this proves to be the case, the Commission must take appropriate action.”

Visit Consumer Watchdog’s website at

John M. Simpson
John M. Simpson
John M. Simpson is an American consumer rights advocate and former journalist. Since 2005, he has worked for Consumer Watchdog, a nonpartisan nonprofit public interest group, as the lead researcher on Inside Google, the group's effort to educate the public about Google's dominance over the internet and the need for greater online privacy.

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