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

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.

Related Forum: iOS 10

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Top Rated Comments

KALLT Avatar
99 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
99 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
99 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
99 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
99 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
99 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)