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Uber 'disciplines' exec accused of tracking journalist, but offers little detail

The car-hailing service says it has "taken disciplinary actions" against an executive who purportedly used an internal tool to track a reporter's whereabouts. But what those actions are isn't clear.

Amid discussion of its recent damage-control efforts, Uber is taciturn about disciplinary actions regarding a potential privacy violation. Pablo Blazquez Dominguez/Getty Images

Controversial ride-sharing service Uber says it has disciplined the executive accused of accessing the company's "God View" tool to track a journalist who used the service. However, Uber isn't saying much more than that.

The company told several media outlets late Friday that it had "taken disciplinary actions" against Josh Mohrer, Uber's general manager for New York City. On November 18, the company said it had begun an investigation of Mohrer, who's been accused of tracking a reporter's whereabouts using a tool that lets Uber employees see logs of customer activity.

Uber has been under fire since that accusation -- which prompted Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) to send a letter to Uber CEO Travis Kalanick about privacy concerns -- as well as another report about the potential tracking of journalists. That other report said Uber executive Emil Michael had made remarks about how the company could spend a million dollars to hire a team to " dig up dirt on its critics in the media."

Michael's remarks prompted just about every major news outlet in the US to write pieces exploring Uber's corporate culture, business practices and views on privacy. And those pieces have in turn sparked questions about Uber's efforts at damage control and whether the flurry of bad publicity could help Uber's rivals.

In the aftermath of the privacy headlines, the strongest statement the company has made was when Kalanick posted a stream of tweets saying Michael's remarks "showed a lack of leadership, a lack of humanity and a departure from our values and ideals" but that Michael wouldn't be dismissed because "folks who make mistakes can learn from them."

When asked what actions had been taken against Mohrer, Uber replied by sending CNET the following statement:

We have concluded our investigation and taken disciplinary actions against NYC General Manager Josh Mohrer. The review by [legal practice] Hogan Lovells that is already underway will evaluate our privacy policies and practices, including employee training and compliance.

It also included a statement that went out last week regarding the "God View" tool:

Our data privacy policy applies to all employees: access to and use of data is permitted only for legitimate business purposes. Violations of this policy do result in disciplinary action, including the possibility of termination and legal action.

Mohrer is still in his position at Uber, according to Slate. Along with the above statements, Uber said only that it was "not providing additional details."