Do you know when Uber is tracking your location?

We know apps collect data about us. But how much, and how is it being used?
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Uber needs to track your location if you want to get picked up at a precise spot. That's pretty obvious.

But do you have any idea when the app stops tracking you? Or even IF it stops tracking you? Or what its policies are about how it uses that location data?

Uber needs to be more clear about all of that, Sen. Al Franken says.

He sent a letter to Uber CEO Travis Kalanick Wednesday (read it here), saying he's concerned about last month's app update for iPhone that restricts an app user's choices about location tracking.

The update greeted people with a big pop-up when they opened up the app again, asking them to allow Uber to access their location even when they're not using the app, as Buzzfeed reported.

And there's no way to opt out of part of it – as you can see in the iPhone settings, location permissions are either totally on, or totally off. Previously there had been the option to only allow location access while the app was being used.

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Franken's concerns

Franken says that it'd be great if Uber added more controls into the app so users could have options about how their data is used.

But at the very least, he says the company should have a clearer explanation in its privacy policy explaining how the data is being collected, and what it's being used for.

An example: Uber says in its help section that "trip related location data" means the app tracks your location from the time the trip starts, until five minutes after you get dropped off. Just like the pop-up warning says.

That isn't clear in the official privacy policy, which only says: "If you permit the Uber app to access location services ... we may also collect the precise location of your device when the app is running in the foreground or background." (And when that was added to the privacy policy in the summer of 2015, it raised the hackles of privacy advocates).

You can choose to not allow access, and if you're on an iPhone you'll have to punch in your physical address. The Verge says it simply doesn't let you use the app on Android if your location services are off.

"To achieve this necessary transparency, I urge you to amend Uber's privacy statement to reflect the company's public assurances and justifications related to the most recent app update," Franken's letter says.

Uber says it'll help service

Uber has repeatedly said this is to make service better – improving estimated arrival times, making sure pick-ups and drop-offs are better (like ensuring people are being let out on the correct side of the street), and also to track how riders leave afterward (so are they crossing the street a lot, for example), TechCrunch reports.

And Fortune actually argues in favor of it, saying previously, someone could hail an Uber then close the app – and leave the driver blind as to their exact location. Also, Fortune says the amount of information being collected isn't significantly more than before.

But Uber's track record with privacy stuff isn't totally clean.

An advocacy group filed a complaint against Uber through the FTC in June 2015, when Uber changed its privacy policy to allow background collection of location services, saying it was a threat to privacy rights.

The New York Attorney General got Uber to agree to more encryption and security for user information, after questions about a "God view" aerial look at real-time users.

And just a couple weeks ago, as Mashable reported, a former employee filed a wrongful termination suit, claiming workers there have easy access to user data. That data was then used by some people to "track high profile politicians, celebrities and even personal acquaintances of Uber employees, including ex-boyfriends/girlfriends, and ex-spouses."

Uber, for what it's worth, said that's totally false.

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