Uber has won a long court battle to be able to operate in London. And through this saga, one of the company’s supporters has come as a surprise: UK police.
The reason for this support is that, according to a report from The Times, the ride-hailing app shares over 2,000 pieces of “vital” information each year with British law-enforcement bodies, including the counterterrorism department, the National Crime Agency, and the British Transport Police.
British police had strongly recommended that Uber be allowed to continue operating in London, ahead of a court ruling that eventually went in favor of the publicly listed company, which had twice been banned in London by the city’s main transportation regulator for failing to properly identify and vet drivers.
British police say that taxis and minicabs are often used for things like child exploitation, human trafficking, and drug dealing. They maintain that Uber’s practice of data-sharing helps them identify possible criminals and keep such activities in check.
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The revelations from the British police came during an analysis of court documents submitted by Uber. The company says such resounding confidence helps it pass the “fit and proper” test and that it’s engaging in a vital public service. But Uber drivers—and customers—may not feel the same way.
Responding to this news, the head of the App Drivers & Couriers Union, James Farrar, said: “The rideshare giant is particularly vulnerable to undue pressure from police and regulatory authorities to compromise the personal data protection rights of their drivers, couriers, and passengers.”
The union added that the access to personal data was “disproportionate, unjustified, and a threat to the civil liberties of drivers, couriers, and customers.”
London is a large market for Uber with 45,000 drivers and 3.5 million users in the capital city. While the company has never admitted to willingly handing over user data in the past, it was hit with a massive data breach in 2016 that affected 57 million users. It hid the news for a year before agreeing to settle a lawsuit for $148 million USD.