Uber to share trip data with some cities

Uber has clashed with a number of local government officials and regulators over whether its ride-hailing service meets their standards. Now the company is offering an olive branch: sharing trip information with cities.

Announcing the initiative in a blog post, Uber said it will provide Boston with data on usage of its service, helping the city "manage urban growth, relieve traffic congestion, expand public transportation and reduce greenhouse gas emissions." Uber will offer what it calls "anonymized trip-level data" by zip code, including the following:

  • Date and time for the beginning of a trip
  • Zip code in which the trip started
  • Zip code in which the trip ended
  • Miles traveled
  • Seconds the trip took
  • Technical support to interpret and use the data

By focusing on zip code data, Uber hopes to mitigate any privacy concerns, as the company has drawn fire over the years for its use of rider data.

Calling for a boycott of Uber

In 2012, Uber was criticized after it blogged about people it thought were having one-night stands, based on their travel patterns. Uber also aroused public ire by suggesting that San Francisco residents who use the service the most tended to live in "neighborhoods with the most prostitution, theft, burglary and alcohol-related crimes."

The controversy around Uber has only grown since then, with several U.S. and overseas cities blocking the startup, allegations about its drivers assaulting passengers, and even a move by South Korea to indict CEO Travis Kalanick on charges of running an illegal taxi service. In another dose of bad press for the company, Uber was widely criticized when an executive recently suggested digging up dirt on journalists who are critical of the company.

Uber's offer to provide trip information to Boston is curious in one respect -- the company has previously refused to offer such data to the New York City Taxi & Limousine Commission, which has pushed to regulate Uber. The startup is also battling the California Public Utilities Commission in court over providing access to trip data.