Several high-profile instances of data mishandling—including employees’ ability to track the location of customers without obtaining their permission, for which the company was fined $20,000 last year—have apparently caught the attention of investigators at the FTC, who are now said to be focusing their attention on the wider privacy practices of the company as a whole.
While it may be that the investigation into Uber is closed quietly, without much impact, there’s also a possibility that it could lead to fully-fledged legal complaint against them.
The FTC has already taken action against Uber—most notably earlier this year, when they penalized the company for misleading drivers about potential earnings. As a result of that action, Uber agreed to pay $20 million in refunds to drivers affected by the misleading claims. Uber, it seems, are no strangers to investigation.
While the FTC doesn’t bring criminal cases itself, it can file formal legal complaints on the basis of misleading or unfair business practices. These complaints, which have previously been brought against such giants as Google, Facebook and Twitter, often end with a settlement in which the company agrees to change its practices—and often they agree to 20 years of privacy checkups by the FTC.
While privacy advocates have recently been frustrated by the attempt to shift regulation of ISPs from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to the FTC, which would have less power over such providers, news of investigations in the privacy handling of companies like Uber will come as welcome news to many.