Investigate Uber For Phone Tracking, Consumer Group Tells FTC

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Consumer Watchdog asked the federal agency to check out claims the company tracked driver's iPhones even after the app was deleted.

Did Uber break the law by collecting information on user's iPhones to identify them even after they deleted the Uber app? That's what a consumer advocacy group asked the US Federal Trade Commission to find out in a complaint sent Thursday.

Consumer Watchdog told the FTC in its complaint that this kind of tracking violates federal privacy law. Also, Uber is due for an investigation, they wrote.

"It is a renegade technology and transportation company whose executives pride themselves on a disruptive, rule-breaking approach to business," the Consumer Watchdog complaint says. "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."

The complaint comes in the wake of a New York Times report from Sunday, which claimed the Uber tracked users' iPhones even after they deleted the Uber app. In its statement responding to the news story, Uber emphasized that iPhone fingerprinting doesn't let them do exactly that.

"We absolutely do not track individual users or their location if they've deleted the app," the company said in a statement. "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."

Cybersecurity experts said in reality, Uber would have been accessing the iPhone's Universal Device ID, a practice that Apple has told developers is forbidden. If a user deletes Uber and then downloads the app again, Uber would have been able to know that it was the same iPhone. Uber was reportedly doing this tracking to crack down on fraud.

According to the Times report, Apple CEO Tim Cook summoned Uber CEO Travis Kalanik to Apple headquarters to tell him Apple would remove the Uber app from its App Store unless the ride-hailing company stopped this practice.

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