Uber fined over withholding sexual assault records

Uber has been fined $59m (£43m) for refusing to hand over the details of more than 1,200 alleged victims of sexual assault involving its drivers.

The taxi app firm said providing the information would be a “shocking violation of privacy” for victims.

Its decision was supported by one victims’ rights group.

The California Public Utility Commission (CPUC), which imposed the fine, said it did not require a public disclosure of the information.

The assaults allegedly took place in California between 2017 and 2019.

Uber had argued that public disclosure may be traumatic for survivors, potentially putting them in danger and discouraging others from coming forward.

But it also stated, in a long-running case with the CPUC, that it might not have a complete account of the incidents.

In its most recent ruling the CPUC said it “requires only that the information regarding sexual assault and sexual harassment be submitted to the Commission under seal”, which would have kept the details of individual cases private.

It added: “Uber’s effort to frustrate Commission oversight of the particulars of sexual assault and sexual harassment claims is also troubling given Uber’s professed desire to provide the safest transportation services.”

RAINN (Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network) had, in an August filing on the case, defended Uber, saying the firm should not have to share victims’ names without their consent. 

According to the RAINN website, it is involved in a partnership with Uber to provide tips for “the best ways to respect others while driving and riding”.

Some pointed out that Uber had in the past shown little regard for user privacy. In November 2017 it concealed a huge data breach that affected 57 million customers and drivers.

And in 2016 it was revealed that an internal company tool called God View allowed employees to see the location of Uber vehicles and customers who had requested a car.

As a result of that, Uber was ordered by the Federal Trade Commission to bring in stricter controls, and agree to be assessed by an independent auditor every two years.

Uber has 30 days to pay the CPUC fine or face having its services suspended in California.

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