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FTC said to be probing Uber over privacy practices

A fresh inquiry is aimed at potential mishandling of data, Recode reports.


Uber CEO Travis Kalanick might but on leave, but that apparently doesn't keep government watchdog agencies away.

James Martin/CNET

Uber CEO Travis Kalanick might be taking shelter with a leave of absence from his company, but the storm clouds surrounding his leadership keep forming.

The latest is a fresh inquiry reportedly underway at the Federal Trade Commission into the ride-hailing company's privacy practices.

The agency's investigative staff is focusing its attention on potential data-handling problems at Uber, Recode reported Wednesday, citing four unnamed sources familiar with the matter. That might include an internal Uber feature known as "God View" that lets employees see logs of customer activity.

Uber declined to comment on the reported new inquiry. The FTC didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.

Recode said its sources cautioned that FTC staff members regularly question companies on consumer protection issues and then quietly close their inquiries without pursuing penalties.

In a separate matter in January, the FTC did punish Uber, requiring the company to pay $20 million in refunds for misleading drivers with exaggerated earnings and claims about its vehicle financing program.

On the privacy front, Uber was recently caught using an internal tool called Greyball to thwart efforts by local authorities to catch the ride-hailing company violating local regulations. Uber has since said it would stop using the tool for that purpose.

The company was also caught using a program called Hell to spy on its rival Lyft. And Apple reportedly threatened to boot Uber from the App Store for violating privacy rules. (A consumer watchdog group later asked the FTC to investigate related matters.)