It has been alleged that Uber knowingly and deliberately broke iOS App Store user tracking rules.
The New York Times reports that the Uber app used a technique called ‘fingerprinting’ to track a user’s device even after the Uber app itself had been uninstalled. The tech is designed to stop Uber drivers from registering multiple account across different handsets and requesting rides, therefore increasing their ride numbers and potentially leading to bigger bonuses.
Furthermore, NYT alleges that Uber deliberately geofenced the data from Apple’s Cupertino headquarters to keep the practise hidden from Apple.
When Apple engineers from other offices discovered what had been happening, Uber CEO Travis Kalanick was apparently summoned to a meeting with Apple boss Tim Cook. Cook said he would yank the Uber app from iOS if said tracking was not removed.
Uber has however said that it simply modified its fingerprinting techniques rather than removed them.
We absolutely do not track individual users or their location if they’ve deleted the app,” Uber told TechCrunch. As the New York Times story notes towards the very end, this is a typical way to prevent fraudsters from loading Uber onto a stolen phone, putting in a stolen credit card, taking an expensive ride and then wiping the phone—over and over again.
Similar techniques are also used for detecting and blocking suspicious logins to protect our users’ accounts. Being able to recognize known bad actors when they try to get back onto our network is an important security measure for both Uber and our users.”
A number of other allegations were also made against the firm, including that it purchased rider receipts from rival Lyft from an intelligence firm.
Game developers have over the weekend expressed dismay at the fact that Uber is also to continue functioning on the App Store despite such a serious breach of protocol. Many suspect that the same leniency would not apply to them were they to deliberately break iOS policy, let alone hide it from Apple.