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Uber makes it easier to delete your account, tougher to track your location

Uber app on a smartphone.
Uber is making it easier to delete your account. On Friday, the ridesharing service announced Privacy Settings, a new system within the iOS and Android apps that offers self-service data controls.

One new setting, known internally as “Dear John,” wipes your account data from Uber’s servers. Once the process begins, you have 30 days to reverse it if you change your mind. But after that time elapses, everything you’ve shared with Uber, including your payments information, saved receipts, addresses, contacts, and UberEats delivery data, is purged from the company’s servers.

It’s more thorough than uninstalling the Uber app, which doesn’t delete account data. And it’s easier than the old account deletion method, which required you to contact Uber’s support team.

“We would often get a lot of questions about what’s deleted from our servers,” Zach Singleton, product manager at Uber, told The Verge. “Internally, this lets us manage it better in terms of scale.”

Uber said that Dear John wasn’t in response to #DeleteUber, a social media protest in response to Uber CEO Travis Kalanick’s position on an advisory committee to President Donald Trump. According to the New York Times, more than 500,000 people deleted their accounts in the period of a few weeks.

“We’ve been working on improving this [account deletion] experience for more than a year,” an Uber spokesperson told The Verge.

The other new Privacy Settings tools have to do with location data. Last fall, Uber removed the option to let users share their location on a per-ride basis, instead tracking location by default for up to five minutes after rides ended. Now, a new screen explains how to disable location tracking, and lets users choose whether or not to let contacts hail a ride in their location.

Uber said the new Privacy Settings will become available to users over the next few weeks.

Uber has faced a maelstrom of criticism over allegations that its employees violated users’ privacy. According to a report from The Center for Investigative Reporting’s Reveal website, some Uber employees used “God View,” an internal location-tracking tool, to monitor the whereabouts of ex-girlfriends and celebrities — including pop star Beyoncé.

The allegations do further harm to the embattled company’s image. Uber has been accused of fostering a toxic corporate culture and mounting a program called Greyball, which it allegedly used to deceive lay enforcement and evade regulators in cities where the ridesharing service wasn’t welcomed by local authorities.

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