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Backed into a corner, Uber allows users to opt out of ‘always on’ location tracking

Backed into a corner, Uber allows users to opt out of ‘always on’ location tracking


iOS 11 gave Uber little choice

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Uber got into hot water earlier this year when the ride-sharing app began tracking users’ location even when they weren’t using the app. The app limited users to giving the company permission to either always track their location or to not track their location at all — the latter option making the app all but unusable. Backed into a corner, users had no option but to grant Uber access to their locations 24/7. At the time, Uber defended the tracking as a way to enhance rider safety, and would restrict tracking to a five-minute limit after each ride.

Now, the rollout of iOS 11 gives users the option of limiting app access to location only when the app is in use, regardless of the developer’s desire. As a result, Uber updated its iOS app with options to share location “while using the app,” “always,” and “never” in location settings — control that will also benefit iPhone owners still on iOS 10.

About 21 per cent of apps that request access to location on iOS 10 do so with the “always” permission, meaning the apps can use location services in the background. But on iOS 11, even if a developer requests the always permission, users still have the option to choose the when-in-use authorization instead. “So you must always be prepared to run with when-in-use authorization,” Apple says on its developer site. The move is designed to alleviate confusing permissioning options, and should address some of the privacy concerns people had about Uber overstepping its bounds.