January 2018

Toronto Council plays tough with Uber

by Mike Beggs

Toronto City Council is demanding that Uber disclose how many of its residents were affected by the company’s vast 2016 data breach.

Councillor Janet Davis put forward this motion in early December, saying Torontonians have a right to know if their personal data was compromised as a result of the breach, which affected 57 million users worldwide. The motion received unanimous approval.

On November 21, Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi acknowledged that in December of 2016 two hackers had accessed user data stored on a third-party cloud-based service. While several other multinationals have had serious breaches (Verifone, Arby’s, Sak’s Fifth Avenue), Uber made matters eminently worse by paying hackers $100,000 to conceal the breach.

And regulators around the world are now taking Uber to task over this latest scandal, in a year of bad press.

“The City has given (Uber) incredible access to a huge market here in Toronto. I am hoping they recognize the value of our licensing agreement and abide by our request,” Davis stated.

Her motion directed the City manager to demand information from Uber, and to ask how and when the company will inform drivers and riders affected by the breach.

Uber has not responded to requests from several Canadian municipalities to disclose how many of its 2 million Canadian users were affected and where, according to a staff report on this item.

Under its 2016 licensing agreement, Uber is obligated to protect the personal data it collects from users, and to be able to produce all data or records to the City or police for investigations within 30 days of the request. The ridesharing giant could face fines, or suspensions if it violates the City’s licensing agreement.

Uber management said the company will work with the City on this issue.

In an e-mail to the Toronto Star, Uber spokesperson Susie Heath said the privacy of its riders and drivers is of paramount importance to the company, and that Uber is working closely with regulatory and government authorities around the world.

However, few taxi industry leaders feel anything will come of the City’s demands on Uber.

“Are the 30 days up yet,” asks owner Andy Reti, sarcastically. “Or will it have automatic independent extensions? The money will still be coming in, breach, or no breach. Right?”

“This is just more smoke and mirrors, giving the impression the City of Toronto actually cares about consumer privacy, whereas they only care

about that $6.5 million they are presently collecting through the 30 cents per fare fee they are charging (Uber),” long-time owner/operator Gerry Manley chimes in.

Mississauga owner Peter Pellier concurs, “Now that Uber is contributing handsomely to the City’s coffers, it’s highly unlikely any action will be taken against them, regardless of the scandalous conduct. So much for Section 15 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which states, “Every individual is equal before and under the law. And so much for justice.”

Meanwhile, the Star reports that the Federal Privacy Commission has opened a formal investigation into the Uber breach. Heath said they are cooperating with the Commission.


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