Facing heat over reports that the company had accessed a BuzzFeed journalist's user record without her permission to make a point, the ride-sharing company Uber posted an update on its company blog on Tuesday night affirming that rider data is "confidential information" that will only be accessed by company employees in a narrow set of circumstances.
Call it "Uber-rider confidentially," and the pointed response is a sign that the company gets the existential threat to its business it is facing. Data is in many ways the company's greatest assets, but it also opens it up to worries that the company possesses both a tremendous amount of data and a willingness to use it against the many critics the company has acquired along the way.
Tuesday's blog post, from spokesperson Nairi Hourdajian, isn't framed as a change in approach, but rather a reiteration that the company's policy is to only use rider data for "legitimate business purposes."
The post adds new details to the debate by explaining that those purposes include -- but aren't limited to -- solving riders problems, processing payments for drivers, keeping track of fraud and, writes Hourdajian, "reviewing specific rider or driver accounts in order to troubleshoot bugs."
Uber hasn't said yet whether rider data was indeed accessed in the case reported by BuzzFeed. But the blog post hints at a mea culpa. "As the company continues to grow," writes Hourdajian, "we will continue to be transparent about our policy and ensure that it is properly understood by our employees."
Update: Asked about the two situations detailed by BuzzFeed -- one report of a company executive floating the idea of using opposition researchers to investigate troublesome journalists and another of a company manager accessing a reporter's user profile without permission -- Uber spokesperson Nairi Hourdajian writes in an email that "we are currently investigating the incidents you reference."