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Communities / Data / Municipal government / Transportation

New Uber/Lyft data-sharing rules pass over privacy objections from NYC Public Advocate

“The last thing New Yorkers want is for our information to get into the hands of hackers, or worse — the Trump Administration,” said Public Advocate Letitia James.

"The stated justification for the new rule is to combat 'driver fatigue' and improve car service safety." (Photo by Attribution Engine user Maryus Bio, used under a Creative Commons license)

A new regulation stipulating that ride data including the pickup, drop off and duration of passenger trips on services like Uber, Lyft and others be shared with the New York City government passed unanimously yesterday at the Taxi and Limousine Commission (TLC) despite protest from Public Advocate Letitia James, as well as numerous leaders in the New York tech world.

The legislation is designed to ensure that drivers do not work too many hours. The data in question will be used to confirm that the hours the drivers report working add up correctly.

“Each month TLC will review trip records submitted by yellow and green taxis, as well as FHV (For Hire Vehicle) bases, to calculate the number of hours in which a driver transported passengers in a day or week,” the new rules read. “In addition to requiring FHV bases to report trip times, TLC will also require them to indicate when trips are shared. With drop-off location information, TLC can confirm the accuracy of the FHV records by considering such factors as distances traveled during and between trips, routes, and traffic conditions.”

What that means is the city will now have an account of every time a user orders a car and where they went.

The data would show how often cars came to each address in the city and how long their trips were. What’s more, as that information would be held by a governmental body, it would be subject to requests under the Freedom of Information Act.

“Under NY’s Freedom of Information Law, that data in bulk will also be subject to full public release,” according to a post in Princeton University’s Freedom to Tinker, published before the new rules passed. “This proposal is either a classic case of good intentions gone awry or a clandestine effort to track millions of car service riders while riding roughshod over passenger privacy.”

That is not a good situation for the city to get itself into, said Public Advocate Letitia James.

“The last thing New Yorkers want is for our information to get into the hands of hackers, or worse — the Trump Administration,” James wrote in a statement. She also called the new rules a “solution in search of a problem,” noting that the city did not supply any evidence or studies showing that there is currently an issue with driver fatigue, instead resting on the assumption that there is.

Her comments were echoed by Julie Samuels, the executive director of Tech NYC.

“New Yorkers should be able to travel throughout our city without fear that they are being tracked and their information may be shared with the public,” she said. “Government cannot require private data without showing that it is needed to achieve its objective.”

Companies: Lyft / Uber
Series: Brooklyn

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