Today we are releasing Uber’s first-ever Transparency Report. It shows the scope of information that we provided to U.S. law enforcement agencies as well as state and local regulators in the second half of 2015.
Uber is following in the footsteps of 60 technology companies, from Facebook to Apple, that have released reports over the last four years. However, ours is a bit different: we’re the first company to include regulatory requests. That’s because our business is different.
While most tech companies are dealing with bits — emails, photos and messages — Uber is in the bits and atoms business. Our technology connects riders and drivers in the real world, a world that is regulated by agencies like the California Public Utilities Commission and the New Orleans Department of Safety and Permits. These agencies have the power to force companies to give them information, such as trip data.
The report shows that we comply with the majority of law enforcement requests, while ensuring they go through the proper legal process, as stated in our updated public guidelines. It also shows the scale of the regulatory requests Uber received: 33 in the last six months of 2015 involving trip data for more than 12 million drivers and riders.
Of course regulators will always need some amount of data to be effective, just like law enforcement. But in many cases they send blanket requests without explaining 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. It’s why Uber frequently tries to narrow the scope of these demands, though our efforts are typically rebuffed.
While the line between the digital and real world has blurred, the way regulators approach data remains unchanged. Today requests to digital companies often exceed those for offline companies. For example, a taxi company might have to submit a paper log with the rough pickup and dropoff locations of a trip. 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.
We hope our Transparency Report will lead to a public debate about the types and amounts of information regulated services should be required to provide to their regulators, and under what circumstances.