Uber Explains Why its App Appears to Track Users Days or Even Weeks After a Ride

by

Uber responded on Friday to concerns surrounding its app's background tracking behavior by explaining that the issue is being caused by an update to iOS itself, not the company's ride-hailing app (via TechCrunch).

Concerns were first raised about Uber's use of location services when the company announced it would track customers' whereabouts for a few minutes after their trip ends and the app is no longer open, in order to improve its service. Privacy advocates' main complaint was that the app offered no opt-out. However, since that time many users have reported that the app goes much further and appears to track them for days or even weeks after they last used the ride-hailing service, even when the app is closed.

Apple Maps Uber


Uber now says the unintentional behavior is being triggered by the iOS Maps extension that Apple added to its mobile operating system in September, not due to a bug in the Uber app or because of its recent location services update.

In iOS 10, Apple opened up Maps to third-party apps, allowing developers to create extensions that can be integrated into the search result of Maps. When an app is installed that features an extension for Apple Maps, it is automatically integrated, but the extension is disabled by default to prevent search results from getting too crowded.

According to an Uber spokesperson: "For people who choose to integrate ride sharing apps with iOS Maps, location data must be shared in order for you to request a ride inside the Maps app. Map extensions are disabled by default and you can choose to turn them on in your iOS settings," they said.

The confusion appears to lie in the way iOS 10 shows which apps use location services (Settings -> Privacy -> Location Services). The arrow icons are making users think third-party apps have silently been tracking them, when in fact it's due to the way Apple's Maps extension works in the background to provide location-based search results on request.

To make things clearer for users, TechCrunch suggests Apple adopts another color-coded arrow icon in the Location Services screen in order to distinguish between when an app directly accesses location data, and when its Maps extension does so.

Top Rated Comments

KALLT Avatar
53 months ago
People who are upset about this have clearly not been paying attention. There are so many controversies surrounding this company and some of their executives in particular, that you cannot keep track of anymore. It is a disgusting company with a poor track record on ethics. They showed years ago that their executives can tap into customer contact and location data at their pleasure: https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2014/nov/19/uber-investigates-top-executive-after-journalists-privacy-was-breached.

Simple, stop using Uber.
Score: 11 Votes (Like | Disagree)
miniyou64 Avatar
53 months ago
Color is a terrible differentiation for UI for accessibility reasons. But Apple stopped caring about great UX since iOS7.
Score: 9 Votes (Like | Disagree)
M2M Avatar
53 months ago
Why is it optional in an app to share location only 'when using' ?
Apples quality review should enforce all 3 options: always, when using, never.
Or even better: the API should enforce it. Problem solved.

I see Apple as a (small) part of the problem here.
Score: 8 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Strutten Avatar
53 months ago
Than why is Uber the only map extension that has used the gps? I have three such extensions and Uber is the only one "calling home". I call ********.
Score: 7 Votes (Like | Disagree)
miniyou64 Avatar
53 months ago

Nice to have such reasonable and nuanced takes on complex issues. /sarcasm

I'm a UX designer because of Apple. They taught me good UX. And they suck now. Everyday I find a new bug. It's not the Apple it used to be.
Score: 7 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Saturnine Avatar
53 months ago
Dear Uber, if you're going to put questionable location tracking services features into your app without an option to opt out, then don't be surprised when you're questioned, scrutinised and untrusted.
Score: 7 Votes (Like | Disagree)

Top Stories

iphone 5s black slate

Images of Unreleased iPhone 5s in Black and Slate Shared Online

Sunday January 17, 2021 9:47 am PST by
Twitter user @DongleBookPro has today shared images of a prototype iPhone 5s in an unreleased Black and Slate color. The iPhone 5s was launched in September 2013. The device featured Touch ID, a 64-bit processor, and a True Tone LED flash for the first time. Other new features included a five-element lens with an f/2.2 aperture, a 15 percent larger camera sensor, Burst Mode, and Slo-Mo...
iP12 charge airpods feature 2

Hidden iPhone 12 Hardware Feature Could Still be Unlocked

Thursday January 14, 2021 2:51 am PST by
All iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 Pro models purportedly have a hidden reverse wireless charging feature, according to an FCC filing. The feature has not yet been activated, but could yet be unlocked for an upcoming Apple accessory. The FCC filing suggests that iPhone 12 models contain the hardware for Wireless Power Transfer (WPT) to accessories: In addition to being able to be charged by a...
Top Stories 43 Feature

Top Stories: MacBook Pro, iMac, Mac Pro, and iPhone Rumors, Best of CES 2021

Saturday January 16, 2021 6:00 am PST by
This week was sure a busy one in the Apple world, with a flurry of announcements out of CES early in the week followed by a rash of Mac- and iPhone-related rumors later in the week. The new rumors this week included details on updated MacBook Pro, iMac, and Mac Pro models, as well as a few other tidbits, so make sure to read on below to get caught up! Kuo: New MacBook Pro Models to...
macbook pro flexgate

Apple Extends 13-Inch MacBook Pro Backlight Repair Program

Sunday January 17, 2021 10:31 am PST by
Apple this week extended its worldwide 13-inch MacBook Pro Display Backlight Service Program, authorizing coverage for eligible notebooks for up to five years after the original purchase date or up to three years after the start date of the program, whichever is longer. The previous cutoff was four years after the original purchase date. Apple launched the program on May 21, 2019 after...
foldable iPhone concept feature

Apple Testing In-Display Fingerprint Sensor for iPhone 13, Foldable iPhone Also in the Works

Friday January 15, 2021 1:46 pm PST by
Apple has started "early work" on an iPhone that has a foldable display, according to a new report from Bloomberg's Mark Gurman. Though testing of a foldable iPhone has begun, Apple has not committed to releasing a device that has a foldable display. Development has not yet expanded beyond a display and Apple does not have full foldable iPhone prototypes in its labs. Like foldable...
google maps detailed street level e1611052089473

Google Maps Gains Enhanced Street-Level Detail in Four Major Cities

Tuesday January 19, 2021 2:34 am PST by
Google Maps has quietly been updated to include significantly more detailed street-level information in a handful of key cities around the world. Upon zooming in, Google's maps for Central London, Tokyo, San Francisco, and New York now benefit from shapes and widths that match the scale of roads more accurately. Meanwhile, enhanced graphical representations of sidewalks, crosswalks,...
16inchmacbookpromain

Kuo: New MacBook Pro Models to Feature Flat-Edged Design, MagSafe, No Touch Bar and More Ports

Thursday January 14, 2021 9:32 pm PST by
Apple is working on two new MacBook Pro models that will feature significant design changes, well-respected Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo said today in a note to investors that was obtained by MacRumors. According to Kuo, Apple is developing two models in 14 and 16-inch size options. The new MacBook Pro machines will feature a flat-edged design, which Kuo describes as "similar to the iPhone 12" ...
macbook pro screensaver table

Some M1 Macs Affected By Fast User Switching Screensaver Bug

Monday January 18, 2021 1:57 am PST by
A growing number of user reports online suggest some of Apple's M1 Mac models are susceptible to a Fast User Switching bug that spontaneously activates the screensaver and leaves the user unable to dismiss it. In macOS Big Sur, Fast User Switching allows users to quickly switch between user accounts without having to completely log out. Based on posts in the MacRumors forums, Apple...
iphone x camera close

iOS 14.4 Will Introduce Warning on iPhones With Non-Genuine Cameras

Thursday January 14, 2021 8:07 am PST by
In the second beta of iOS 14.4 seeded to developers and public testers this week, MacRumors contributor Steve Moser has discovered code indicating that Apple will be introducing a new warning on iPhones that have had their camera repaired or replaced with aftermarket components rather than genuine Apple components. "Unable to verify this iPhone has a genuine Apple camera," the message will...
apple fitness plus burn bar

Fitness+ Subscribers Now Have Nearly 300 Workouts to Choose From

Monday January 18, 2021 3:24 am PST by
Apple on Monday added over two dozen new video workout sessions to Fitness+, continuing a recent trend of building out the catalog of its fledgling subscription service on a weekly basis. Fitness+ launched December 14, 2020, and is designed to help Apple Watch owners keep fit through a series of guided workouts that are available across multiple workout categories. As you follow along with...