Uber might be tracking your location

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Uber once again came under fire after a recent report claimed that its app was tracking the location of passengers even if they were not using the taxi-hailing service for weeks. The company however has come up with an explanation and says that the location-tracking is enabled for some users due to a new iOS setting. Uber stresses that it’s not its app that’s doing this – but an iOS feature.

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John Gruber of DaringFireball in a recent post had claimed how Uber was tracking user location and it could be easily checked via Settings > Privacy > Location Services on an iOS device. The setting showed how an app was tracking the location in three options: “Always”, “While using the app”, and “Never.” However, several users shared screenshots of the Settings page that showed Uber location tracking as set to “Always” despite not having used the app in nearly a week.

An Uber spokesperson in a statement to The News, said this behaviour was attributable to use of the new iOS Maps extension, “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.”

The iOS Maps extension was opened to developers in September, and unfortunately, for third-party apps there’s no way to clarify that it’s actually the Maps extension that is accessing a location and not the actual app. The iOS setting also gives away wrong impression to users as if the app is tracking location of users while it was not used for weeks.

The News points out that Uber isn’t the only third-party app that’s integrated with Apple Maps and there are other apps such as Lyft, OpenTable, and Yelp.

The confusion over tracking-location was obvious as Uber last month confirmed that it collected user location data from the time of trip request through five minutes after the trip ended, disabling the “When using the app” control temporarily to “Always” – including when the app was in the background – with the aim to improve pickups, drop-offs, customer service, and to enhance safety.

Let’s be very clear about something. Uber isn’t a taxi service. No, you wouldn’t catch Travis Kalanick – the founder of Uber – saying that. They would likely describe the service as one that connects passengers with willing drivers. Admittedly, the line between that and traditional taxi services is one that is incredibly blurred. But we would recommend you to take this baby to a test drive, as you might not get a deal better than this one.

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