Uber's 'God View' under scrutiny as spotlight intensifies on its practices

The car-ride service, which is accused of tracking a reporter's Uber rides, is investigating a top executive -- in the wake of a controversy involving another exec's intense interest in reporters.

Don Reisinger
CNET contributor Don Reisinger is a technology columnist who has covered everything from HDTVs to computers to Flowbee Haircut Systems. Besides his work with CNET, Don's work has been featured in a variety of other publications including PC World and a host of Ziff-Davis publications.
Don Reisinger
2 min read

Uber passengers request rides with a smartphone app. Uber

Car-ride provider Uber is investigating a top executive over allegations that he had a BuzzFeed reporter tracked without her knowledge, a new report claims.

Josh Mohrer, Uber's New York general manager, is accused of tracking reporter Johana Bhuiyan by using a feature known as "God View" that is available to Uber employees and allows them to see logs of Uber customer activity, BuzzFeed reported Tuesday.

Bhuiyan had recently said that Mohrer personally showed her on two occasions over the last two months data that proved he was able to track her rides through Uber, which uses a smartphone app to connect riders with drivers. Bhuiyan had not asked to have her data tracked.

"Our data privacy policy applies to all employees: access to and use of data is permitted only for legitimate business purposes," an Uber spokesperson said Wednesday in response to CNET's request for comment. "Data security specialists monitor and audit that access on an ongoing basis. Violations of this policy do result in disciplinary action, including the possibility of termination and legal action."

The news comes on the heels of another Uber controversy in regards to the media.

BuzzFeed also reported Tuesday that Uber senior vice president of business, Emil Michael, said last week at a dinner that the company should " dig up dirt on its critics in the media." While Michael apologized for the comments, it didn't stop Uber CEO Travis Kalanick from publicly chastising him over Twitter.

Michael's "remarks showed a lack of leadership, a lack of humanity and a departure from our values and ideals," Kalanick said in a tweet. Kalanick also hinted that Michael would not be fired for his remarks.

"I believe that folks who make mistakes can learn from them -- myself included," Kalanick said. "And that also goes for Emil."

Those comments, however, may become more of a concern to privacy seekers in light of BuzzFeed sources' claim that God View is available to just about any Uber employee and can do everything from finding out where a person wants to be picked up to tracking where they are in real time. BuzzFeed's sources, who are two former Uber employees, said that the tool was able to be accessed widely across the company, and only one of them would say that he or she had never seen it used improperly.

Whatever the case, Uber on Tuesday published its data privacy policy, which prohibits "all employees at every level from accessing a rider or driver's data."