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Uber to regulators: Enough with the blanket requests for user data

The ride-hailing company says that in a six-month period, it got requests for trip data that affected a staggering 583,000 drivers and 11.6 million riders.

Uber's worried about a slippery slope in regulators' requests for trip data.

Uber

Uber has a beef with government agencies that come knocking on its door for information.

The ride-hailing company released its first-ever transparency report on how it has complied with requests for user data by US law enforcement agencies and by state and local regulators such as the California Public Utilities Commission. In doing so, it joined the ranks of tech and online companies including Apple, Google, Facebook and Reddit that regularly sum up the number and nature of such requests.

Many of those inquiries are tied to routine criminal investigations or to emergencies. Between July and December of 2015, Uber received 415 total law enforcement requests such as subpoenas and search warrants, and produced "some data" in about 85 percent of those cases.

What really got under Uber's skin was the scope of snooping by regulators. The San Francisco-based company said that in that six-month period, it got 33 regulatory requests for trip data that affected a staggering number of people: 583,000 drivers and 11.6 million riders.

In many cases, Uber said, regulators send "blanket requests" that don't bother to explain why the information is needed or how it will be used.

"And while this kind of trip data doesn't include personal information, it can reveal patterns of behavior -- and is more than regulators need to do their jobs," the company said in a blog post Tuesday.

Uber said it was able to narrow the scope of information requested in a little over 40 percent of cases.

It also used the occasion to point out how it faces different challenges than its rivals in the traditional taxi business.

"A taxi company might have to submit a paper log with the rough pickup and dropoff locations of a trip," Uber wrote. "But we might be asked to share the precise GPS coordinates of the pickup and dropoff locations, or even the entire path of the trip."