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EPIC fail for Uber's new privacy policy: FTC asked to block “deceptive data collection”
Uber's new 'User Privacy Statement' claims the right to track its users even when they are not currently using the app, which is nothing but unfair and deception data collection practices, EPIC says in its complaint to FTC
 
The Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC), a non-profit privacy rights group, has filed a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission asking that the FTC halt the “unfair and deceptive data collection practices” which car-sharing company Uber plans to impose on customers starting in mid-July, says ConsumerAffairs.com in a report.
 
According to ConsumerAffairs.com, a consumer news and advocacy organization founded in 1998 by James R Hood, among other things, Uber's new “User Privacy Statement” claims the right to track its users even when they are not currently using the app.
 
Uber's posted announcement of this update included the sentence “We value your privacy and encourage you to review the new statement” prominently backlighted in blue at the top of the page. When you scroll down to the fourth full paragraph, you find this:
 
Location Information: When you use the Services for transportation or delivery, we collect precise location data about the trip from the Uber app used by the Driver. If you permit the Uber app to access location services through the permission system used by your mobile operating system (“platform”), we may also collect the precise location of your device when the app is running in the foreground or background. We may also derive your approximate location from your IP address.
 
In other words, ConsumerAffairs.com, said, "when the app is on, we can use it to track your location, and when it's not, we can use your IP address instead. The policy goes on to say that it can use your address-book contact information 'to facilitate social interactions through our Services and for other purposes', a polite way of saying they can spam anybody in your email contact list."
 

Lax Views on Privacy

According to the report, Uber already has a storied history of coming under fire for its lax views on privacy. Last November was a particularly bad month for Uber's public relations department. First, BuzzFeed reported that Uber executive Emil Michael floated the idea of handling any criticism of the company by digging up dirt on any journalists who dared criticize it.
 
When an editor from the website PandoDaily accused Uber of “sexism and misogyny” for apparently working with a French “escort service,” Michael suggested, among other things, that Uber's dirt-diggers could expose the editor by proving a very particular, specific (and presumably unflattering) claim about her personal life, ConsumerAffairs.com says.
 
Such an attitude arguably sounds bad expressed by any company executive, but are especially damaging coming from a tech company like Uber which, by its very nature, has access to lots of information which customers might prefer to keep private — in Uber's case, its business model ensures that it knows where its customers live, what places they visit, and when. (Indeed, with such information, you could prove lots of particular and specific claims about various people's personal lives, no?)
 
Also last November, it came out that an Uber executive had used a program called “God View” to track a journalist's location and movements. Not that “God View” itself was breaking news by then; the previous month, Forbes magazine reported that Uber used “God View” as a form of entertainment at company launch parties, letting staffers enjoy watching real-time “God's eye” views of Uber passengers at that moment, including their identities, current locations and trip itineraries.
 
Then, a couple of days before Thanksgiving, Newsweek reported Uber's tendency to advertise its services by sending “ghost texts” – spammy messages allegedly sent from Uber drivers that urged their friends to sign up as well, except the drivers never sent their friends such messages, and didn't even know about them.
 

A host of complaints

EPIC's complaint (available as a .pdf here) lists all of these anti-Uber complaints and several more, and also quotes the proposed new privacy policy before spelling out some of its implications:
 
Uber’s Revised Business Practices Will Allow the Company to Routinely Track the Location of Internet Users Even When They are not Customers of Uber
 
Uber’s revised privacy policy creates several risks for American consumers. Uber will now collect the precise location of the user when the app is running in the foreground through traditional GPS location services. Uber will also collect precise location information if the app is operating in the background. On phones running iOS, this means that Uber may be able collect location data even after an app has been terminated by the user. … Further, given Uber’s statement that it will collect location data from a user’s device only “[i]f you permit it to,” a user would reasonably assume that the company does not track his or her location by other means. In fact, Uber may continue to “derive your approximate location from your IP address.”
 
EPIC's complaint does go on to note that Uber claims “it will allow users to opt-out of these features,” but says Uber's “change in business practices places an unreasonable burden on consumers and is not easy to exercise: while iOS users can later disable the contact syncing option by changing the contacts setting on their mobile devices, the Android platform does not provide any such setting. These statements could lead users to believe that that [sic] they can choose to not share location data with the company after downloading the app, which is not true.”
 
The 23-page complaint also points out that “prior to the emergence of Uber and similar services, American consumers could routinely hire taxis without any disclosure of personal information or tracking of their location.” EPIC asks the Federal Trade Commission to investigate Uber's business and data-collection practices; investigate Uber's “possible violation of the Telephone Consumer Protection Act”: “Halt” Uber's collection of contact list information and user location data unless it is required for actual provision of the service; and also investigate other companies engaged in similar practices.
 
But representatives for Uber say neither EPIC nor the FTC have any reason for complaint. Spokesperson Jessica Santillo told ConsumerAffairs.com that “We care deeply about the privacy of our riders and driver-partners. These updated statements don't reflect a shift in our practices, they more clearly lay out the data we collect today and how it is used to provide or improve our services.”

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Nifty, Sensex, Bank Nifty to be under pressure: Weekly Market Report
Nifty will head lower if it closes below 8300 
 
The S&P BSE Sensex closed the week that ended on 26th June, at 27,811.84 (up 496 points or 1.81%), while the NSE’s CNX Nifty closed at 8,381.10 (up 156 points or 1.91%). In the previous week, we had mentioned that the 50-stock Nifty may rally a bit if it manages to hold above last week’s lows.
 
With positive news in India and Greece, the trend in Sensex, Nifty and Bank Nifty zoomed in Monday’s trading. Finance Minister Arun Jaitley had said the credibility of Indian economy has been partly restored, but cautioned the momentum must be sustained over the next two years to win over and provide comfort to world investors. Jaitley said there is "huge amount of enthusiasm" among investors as they see India picking up again after four-five years of slack. 
 
The Greek government submitted proposals to its creditors early Monday aimed at breaking the deadlock over a debt crisis that has imperilled Athens’s continuing membership in the euro currency zone. The proposals came just hours before European Union (EU) leaders were to hold emergency meetings aimed at forcing a breakthrough in the country’s international bailout negotiations.
 
On Tuesday, as expected, most indices were in the green with favourable macroeconomic news in India. Arvind Subramanian, Chief Economic Advisor (CEA), said he does not see oil prices going beyond $80 to $85, a price, which will help India manage its macro economy reasonably. India’s current account deficit (CAD) is not likely to worsen in this context.
 
On Wednesday, as expected, there were small percentage losses in the Sensex 30-stocks and Nifty. Bank Nifty managed to stay in the green. The general trend was still upward both in India and abroad. Indian Finance Minister Arun Jaitley had said the government is targeting to weed out the root causes of this menace and a one-time compliance window will be announced in the next few days for those with undeclared assets abroad to come clean. While a new law will come into effect from 1 April 2016, to tackle the black money menace, the government is in the process to put in place a compliance window for those with undeclared assets abroad to come clean by paying the penalty. 
 
The Income tax department had notified a new, more simplified, set of tax return (ITR) forms for taxpayers for assessment year 2015-16.
 
On Thursday, as expected, the Indian indices were range-bound and recorded minor gains. Making a strong pitch for investments, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley had asked long-term US investors to start investing without any delay as India's growth story is on a firm footing and all outstanding issues are under the government's active consideration. In his meeting with a group of US investors, Jaitley, who concluded his nine-day US tour Wednesday, alluded to the extensive reforms that have been launched by the Indian government during the last one year. Addressing long-term investors at a roundtable organised by CII and Kotak in San Francisco, Jaitley said the economic fundamentals are very strong, making India one of the most attractive investment destinations. This is the same pitch, former finance minister P Chidambaram used to make. 
 
Also, shares of information technology (IT) companies were under pressure, declining by up to 9% in an otherwise firm market. KPIT Technologies closed at Rs90.15, down 9.08% on BSE and Mindtree closed at Rs1,294.35, down 5.05%. KPIT Technologies shares also saw a spurt in volume with 40 lakh shares traded on the BSE as compared to a 2-week average of 1.26 lakh.
 
On Friday, the major indices were range bound, with the 30-stock Sensex closing at 27,811.84, down 0.30% and the 50-stock Nifty closing at 8,381.10, down 0.20%. The losses were marginal and the overall weekly trend was up. 
 
In a word of caution, RBI Governor Raghuram Rajan has asked central banks from across the world to define 'new rules of the game' as he warned that the global economy may be slipping into problems similar to the Great Depression of the 1930s. Rajan, who has been warning against competitive monetary policy easing by central banks, however, said the situation is different in India, where RBI still needs to bring down lending rates to spur investments. He expressed concern that the world may be slipping into the kind of problems of the depression of the 1930s and an international consensus was needed to be built over time. 
 
Out of the 27 main sectors tracked by Moneylife, top five and the bottom five sectors for this week were:
 

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ToxicsWatch Alliance raises concern over old foreign ships allowed in Indian waters
Several foreign ships have been abandoned in Indian waters. It is not clear, if the ship, Cheng (formerly Albarella) that is now at Bhavnagar anchorage in Gujarat, is a cargo or an end-of-life ship meant for dismantling, TWA says
 
ToxicsWatch Alliance (TWA), which has been working on the issue of hazardous wastes and ship breaking for over a decade, has raised doubts on a foreign ship, Cheng (ex-Albarella IMO No. 8115332) that is in Indian waters on humanitarian grounds. The ship entered Indian waters about 35 days back citing failure of its generator and remained at Gopnath Anchorage without official permission for around 25 days. On humanitarian grounds, the ship is now allowed to shift to Bhavnagar anchorage. 
 
In a letter sent to Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar, and Shipping Minister Nitin Gadkari, the TWA, represented by Gopal Krishna said, "I have learnt that it is not clear as yet as to whether the ship is a cargo or an end-of-life ship meant for dismantling. I submit that this ship remained at Gopnath anchorage, Gujarat for some 25 days without official permission. I have learnt that some 10 days back following the permission of Alang Port Officer, it has been allowed to be shifted to Bhavnagar anchorage, Gujarat on humanitarian grounds." 
 
According to TWA, the ship Cheng was built in 1983. Its port of registry is Kingstown. It is carrying the flag of St. Vincent & The Grenadines. 
 
 
"It is not clear whether this ship submitted Pre Arrival Notification of Security (PANS) to jurisdiction port, Indian Coast Guard and Indian Navy at least 96 hours in advance before entering from foreign port. I submit that it is not clear whether there was prior informed consent taken before entering Indian Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) and Search and Rescue Region (SRR)," TWA said in the letter.
 
The letter says that there have been several instances where such foreign ships have been abandoned in Indian waters. "Such instances set very dangerous precedent and opens flood gates for such dead and dubious ships due to conniving and complicit officials. It is high time a high level probe unearths the rot and sets it right before it is too late," it added.
 
Seeking urgent intervention, from the Ministry of Defence and Ministry of Shipping, TWA said, "While Indian Coast Guard and Naval Intelligence have consistently raised security concerns from the entry of foreign ships, the role of other agencies of the state and central government appear to compromise country's maritime and environmental security disregarding fragile coastal zones of Bhavnagar in Gujarat".

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