Uber is handing over contact tracing data to public health authorities to assist in tracking down people suspected of coming in contact with someone who has the Chinese virus, according to a report from Reuters.
The ridesharing company has been quietly providing consumer data to health officials for months. The initiative coincides with Uber’s new “no mask, no ride policy” that bars U.S. consumers from using the rideshare service if they aren’t wearing a mask.
Uber’s contact tracing project gives government officials access to data on Uber drivers as well as riders, raising concerns about privacy. The project provides health departments around the world with data about who used Uber’s services and when.
The company officially revealed the project in a set of guidelines that it quietly published on its official site in May.
“Uber may disclose user information to PHAs [public health authorities] if Uber has a good-faith belief that an emergency involving danger of death or serious physical injury
Uber also said it may “voluntarily” share consumer data with the government if a non-emergency situation.
The company told Reuters that it has a team of 100 Uber employees “handling data requests around the clock.” The team is led by Mike Sullivan, Uber’s chief of global law enforcement, who previously worked as a federal prosecutor in San Francisco.
Uber received a total of about 560 coronavirus-related requests from public health departments in 29 countries during the first half of 2020, according to Reuters. Most of those requests were processed by the company within two hours, company officials said.
That’s compared to just 10 requests from health departments globally in 2019.
Reuters contacted Uber competitor Lyft, which said it provided data to U.S. and Canadian health officials through its Law Enforcement Request system. ‘
But the company declined to provide further details to Reuters, citing privacy reasons.
Reuters said it reviewed contact tracing policies by 32 U.S. state and local health departments found most did not use ride-hailing data to track the spread of the virus.
Ridesharing companies have been hit hard by the Chinese coronavirus pandemic, with ride volumes plummeting due to stay-at-home orders and more people working from home.
Uber introduced its “no mask, no ride” policy in May, mandating that both drivers and riders wear masks. While the policy was set to expire in June, the company has indefinitely extended the requirement.