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Uber restricts God View but needs to come clean on usage policy, says US senator

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In a letter to Senator Al Franken, Uber says an employee accessed a journalist's personal data because she was '30 minutes late' to a meeting

Uber has responded to concerns over the company's privacy policy, after it was reported last month that one of its employees tracked a journalist's location using an internal tool called "God View." In a letter to Senator Al Franken (D-MN), the company says employee Josh Mohrer tracked BuzzFeed News reporter Johana Bhuiyan because she was "30 minutes late" to a meeting, and he wanted to meet her in the lobby. Uber adds that Mohrer showed "poor" judgment in using God View to access Bhuiyan's data, and that he was disciplined "accordingly."

The letter, published on Franken's website, comes in response to a letter the Minnesota senator sent in November, inquiring about the company's privacy policies. In its response, Uber says it has curtailed employee access to "God View" — which displays the real-time location of all drivers and customers who have placed an order — and that the tool can only be used for "legitimate business purposes." But in a statement to BuzzFeed News, Franken said many of his questions remain unanswered.

"Quite frankly, they did not answer many of the questions I posed directly to them."

"While I'm pleased that they replied to my letter, I am concerned about the surprising lack of detail in their response," Franken said. "Quite frankly, they did not answer many of the questions I posed directly to them. Most importantly, it still remains unclear how Uber defines legitimate business purposes for accessing, retaining, and sharing customer data. I will continue pressing for answers to these questions."

The "God View" incident was reported one day after Uber's senior vice president of business, Emil Michael, suggested spending $1 million to dig up dirt on PandoDaily editor-in-chief Sarah Lacy, who has been publicly critical of the company. In its letter to Franken, Uber contended that the media has "generated misconceptions" about how it handles its customers' personal data.

Uber has come under fire on several fronts in recent months, amid controversy over its competitive tactics and questionable hiring practices. The taxi-hailing app has also been banned in Spain, Thailand, and the Indian capital of Delhi, with a French ban set to go into effect on New Year's Day.