An Uber-backed influence campaign against bike and scooter 'rider surveillance' lost the support of major privacy groups once they found out the company was involved (UBER)
Several major digital privacy groups pulled their support for an Uber-backed influence campaign after learning of the company's involvement, WIRED first reported Thursday. The campaign, Communities Against Rider Surveillance, is a coalition of 25 organizations that Uber helped form to steer the debate around cities' use of scooter and e-bike trip data. Fight for the Future deputy director Evan Greer told Business Insider she shared concerns about trip data and privacy but that the group backed out of CARS because Uber's involvement was not "clearly disclosed." CARS spokesperson Keeley Christensen told Business Insider that "any suggestion by proponents of real-time location tracking that there is some sort of sleight-of-hand here is both misleading and an effort to cloud the serious privacy issues at stake." Uber sued Los Angeles earlier this year over its use of trip data, an issue that has drawn pushback from CARS and a bevy other privacy advocates who worry how cities and law enforcement might abuse it. Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.
Uber's quiet involvement with a group trying to shape public debate around cities' use of scooter and e-bike trip data has scared off several of its big-name supporters, WIRED first reported Thursday. The group, Communities Against Rider Surveillance, is backed by 25 organizations including Uber and aims to "raise awareness of real-time location tracking and encourage a public dialogue before cities implement surveillance tools that put people at risk," CARS spokesperson Keeley Christensen told Business Insider. But despite sharing some of the same worries about data privacy, advocacy groups Fight for the Future and Algorithmic Justice League withdrew from CARS after learning that Uber is one of its main backers, according to WIRED. Racial equality group MediaJustice told Business Insider it similarly "immediately pulled out" after becoming aware of the connection. "It was frustrating to have to pull out of this coalition," Fight for the Future deputy director Evan Greer told Business Insider. "We share their concerns about the ways that transportation data, even when anonymized, could be abused by government agencies, law enforcement, and others," Greer said, "But Uber's involvement and backing of the effort was not clearly disclosed to us. We think companies should engage in advocacy transparently." Uber and CARS both refused to disclose the sources of the coalition's' funding. Christensen referred Business Insider to her statement to WIRED, which said that CARS "is grateful to have support from a wide and diverse group of organizations" and that Uber had been listed on its website "since day one." "Any suggestion by proponents of real-time location tracking that there is some sort of sleight-of-hand here is both misleading and an effort to cloud the serious privacy issues at stake," Christensen told Business Insider. Other members of CARS contacted by Business Insider raised similar worries about Uber's track record as a company, but said they would continue to support the coalition's work around privacy. "I have concerns about Uber, of course (rotten pay for drivers, horrible corporate environment, etc, etc)," said Patient Privacy Rights President Dr. Deborah Peel, but she added that "the rest of the coalition is organizations that speak for the public's best interest." Tracy Rosenberg of Oakland Privacy said she took issue with Uber's "corporate performance in many aspects" but that she was aware of its involvement in CARS. "On the limited issue of whether raw mobility trip data should be transferred to cities directly or to third parties, we believe unequivocally that it should not be." An Uber spokesperson told Business Insider that the company is glad to be a founding member of CARS and to see more organizations speaking out on the issue, saying Uber believes government demands for trip-level data violate riders' privacy. CARS' advocacy is focused specifically on Mobility Data Specification, a data-sharing standard developed by the Los Angeles Department of Transportation that is used by cities to track scooter and e-bike locations. As urban streets have become increasingly crowded with ride-share companies' vehicles, cities like Los Angeles have passed regulations on their use, some of which have included requirements that companies like Uber — which until recently owned scooter and e-bike startup Jump — share anonymous, near-real-time data on individual trips. That approach has prompted concerns from the ride-hail companies, citing rider privacy and, implicitly, the potential it will expose their trade secrets. In March, Uber sued LADOT over its collection of trip-level data. "Some cities are taking a responsible approach to transportation planning. They're starting by asking what problems they want to solve, and what information they need to get there," Christensen said. "But Los Angeles is moving in the wrong direction" by not being more transparent about how it will use, store, and secure data. Meanwhile, privacy advocates ACLU and Electronic Frontier Foundation filed their own lawsuit against the city in June, saying it was an overreach of government surveillance and could lead to misuse of the data by law enforcement agencies. (Los Angeles city officials have released "data protection principles" that discuss how they intend to ensure people's privacy). In their heated battle with ride-hail companies over which data they should be required to provide, cities' distrust of the companies has been fueled in part by Uber's own checkered history around transparency and data privacy as well as its persistent opposition to regulation. In 2017, The New York Times revealed Uber was intentionally deceiving authorities by serving up a fake version of its app to local officials. Later that year, WIRED reported that Uber tried to cover up a data breach involving 57 million users by paying the hackers a $100,000 ransom.SEE ALSO: Law enforcement agencies are using a legal loophole to buy up personal data exposed by hackers Join the conversation about this story » NOW WATCH: Why electric planes haven't taken off yet
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Uber's CEO took a shot at labor groups, accusing them of being driven by 'politics' in the massive fight over drivers' employment status (UBER, LYFT)
Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi slammed labor groups that oppose the company's stance on drivers' employment status,...Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi slammed labor groups that oppose the company's stance on drivers' employment status, accusing them of being motivated by "politics." During a call with investors Thursday, Khosrowshahi said groups on Uber's side of the issue, conversely, "actually are taking into account the wants and needs of drivers." Uber and other gig economy companies are engaged in a massive legal and political battle, most notably in California, over whether their drivers are employees or independent contractors. The state's regulators have ruled that drivers are employees under its gig worker law and have taken Uber and Lyft to court over the issue, while the companies have pumped $30 million each into a ballot measure that would exempt them from the law. The stakes are high — analysts said last year that an adverse ruling on the issue could bankrupt Uber and Lyft. Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories. Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi took a shot at labor and driver advocacy groups on Thursday over their stance on drivers' employment status, accusing them of not representing drivers' interests. During Uber's quarterly earnings call, Khosrowshahi said groups opposing Proposition 22 — the company's ballot measure in California that would permanently make drivers independent contractors — are motivated by "politics." "We've got terrific supporters [of Proposition 22] in the community as well who actually care about drivers, versus labor unions and politics, they actually are taking into account the wants and needs of drivers," he said. Labor and driver groups pushed back on Khosrowshahi's comments. "It is the height of hypocrisy for Uber's rich executives to feign that they care about drivers when they are spending hundreds of millions on a ballot proposition to prevent those workers from receiving the wages, healthcare, and fundamental rights that they have been granted under California law," Transport Workers Union president John Samuelsen told Business Insider. Carlos Ramos, a driver and organizer for Gig Workers Rising, said: "From my years of organizing with fellow drivers I can unequivocally say that Dara's words do not reflect Uber's actions. They never have. Uber has always attempted to deceive drivers around new policies and procedures, claiming that changes were made in the best interest of drivers." In California, Uber, Lyft, and other ride-hail and food delivery companies are in the middle of a heated battle over whether drivers are employees or contractors under the state's gig worker law, AB-5, which went into effect this year and raised the bar companies must clear in order to treat workers as contractors. While the lawmakers behind AB-5 argued it made Uber drivers employees, the companies have refused to reclassify drivers, sparking multiple legal and political battles over the issue. In June, the state agency responsible for regulating Uber and Lyft ruled that ride-hail drivers are considered employees under AB-5, and a month earlier, a group of attorneys general from the state, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and San Diego sued both companies over their alleged refusal to comply with the law. On Wednesday, Uber and Lyft got hit with another lawsuit from the state's labor commissioner, who accused them of wage theft by refusing to pay drivers minimum wage, sick pay, unemployment, and other benefits guaranteed to employees under California law. Unlike employees, contractors aren't guaranteed those same benefits, and companies aren't bound by certain labor regulations around minimum wage payments or subject to payroll taxes for those workers, which feed into programs like unemployment insurance. But Uber is hoping that Proposition 22, which it introduced last fall along with Lyft, DoorDash, Postmates, and Instacart, will pass in November, allowing drivers to remain classified as contractors and making its legal battles a moot point. The companies have pumped more than $110 million into a group supporting the initiative, with Uber, Lyft, and DoorDash contributing $30 million each. Khosrowshahi called Proposition 22, which also includes new benefits for drivers such as higher wages and some reimbursement for health insurance and vehicle-related expenses, "the best of both worlds." But driver groups have slammed the companies' proposal, saying it shortchanges drivers by not fully accounting for the actual work they do and the costs they incur. For example, under Proposition 22, drivers would not be paid for the time they spend waiting to get matched with a rider, and they would be reimbursed only $0.30 per mile (the IRS per-mile rate for business-related travel is 57.5 cents, by comparison). Both Uber and driver groups claim that drivers are on their side with regards to the initiative. Khosrowshahi said the "vast majority of drivers" support it, while Ramos said "tens of thousands of drivers are organizing against" it. The stakes are undoubtedly high for both drivers and the companies. When AB-5 passed last year, analysts at Barclays concluded that having to reclassify drivers as employees in California alone could cost Uber and Lyft an additional $3,63 per driver. "We think an adverse ruling on the contract workforce issue would potentially bankrupt both Uber and Lyft," they concluded.Join the conversation about this story » NOW WATCH: Why thoroughbred horse semen is the world's most expensive liquid
Scooter charging startup Charge is splashing $3.1 million on new charging stations as it banks on the summer scooter boom
Charge, a startup that provides charging docks for electric scooters, has signed a $3.1 million deal...Charge, a startup that provides charging docks for electric scooters, has signed a $3.1 million deal to roll out new stations in anticipation of a summer scooter boom. Founded in 2019 by entrepreneurs Andrew Fox and Dan Waldman, the startup is ramping up capacity through a $3.1 million deal with Canadian manufacturer Poitras Industries, according to documentation seen by Business Insider. The deal marks the growing maturity of the scooter market in Europe and North America as companies look to move away from the "juicer" model of recharging electric scooters and bikes. Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories. Electric scooter and bike startups are hoping for a summer boom as people emerge from lockdown and seek alternative transport. Major cities across the world have now allowed rented scooters onto their streets, with firms including Lime, Bird, Tier, and Dott fighting for share. These startups like to push their environmental credentials but for the most part scooter recharging involves freelance contractors called "juicers" picking up scooters, driving them to a warehouse to be recharged, and then placing them back on the streets. That reliance on gig economy labor can be inefficient, expensive, and difficult to scale. French-American startup Charge is offering a solution, and hopes to piggyback off the anticipated summer rise in scooter use. Charge offers a range of scooter charging products, such as docks that can charge up to 18 scooters at once. Docks can be rented through Charge's mobile app, and they're designed to be compatible with scooters from different companies. The company, founded by serial entrepreneurs Andrew Fox and Dan Waldman, is about to scale up its operations over 2020, according to documentation seen by Business Insider. Fox and Waldman were both early investors in mobility startup Lime. Charge's senior team counts two additional senior Lime veterans: Noa Khamallah as a senior vice president and Caen Contee. Charge has signed a deal with Canadian manufacturer Poitras Industries to build and deliver 230 charging stations, according to a confirmation letter between the companies seen by Business Insider. The deal is valued at €2.6 million ($3.1 million) and comes weeks after the company deployed scooter docking systems in Paris. Charge confirmed the deal in written responses to Business Insider. "Our industrial investment will enable us to finance our international development, initially in Europe and the United States, and to invest in R&D projects by strengthening our technological lead," Andrew Fox told Business Insider. "A great lever for development, only 16 months after the creation of our company." Charge is currently funded entirely by friends, family, and existing founder capital. The company closed a $4.75 million funding round 12 months ago to fund the business, Business Insider understands. Charge is also opening up 1% of its business to a crowdfunding campaign which it claims will help eco-conscious consumers invest in the future of mobility. The company has smart charging hubs in Atlanta, Los Angeles, and Paris. SEE ALSO: A Lime investor predicts only 2 or 3 scooter players will win after COVID-19, meaning there's going to be a major crunch in Europe Join the conversation about this story » NOW WATCH: Leslie Odom, Jr.'s $500,000 gamble that led to a starring role in 'Hamilton'
Nonprofits and advocacy groups signed on to an organization called Communities Against Rider Surveillance—without knowing that...Nonprofits and advocacy groups signed on to an organization called Communities Against Rider Surveillance—without knowing that the ride-hail giant was involved.