considered suing Uber over tracking activities
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[November 20, 2014]
By Sarah McBride and Dan Levine
SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - A San Francisco
Bay Area entrepreneur and author whose location in an Uber vehicle was
allegedly broadcast to a roomful of party-goers without his permission
considered legal action against the company and consulted an attorney,
he said on Wednesday.
Peter Sims said he ultimately decided against suing because of time
commitments. But his situation highlights potential liabilities at a
time when Uber has drawn fire over allegations that it targeted
On Friday, Uber executive Emil Michael told journalists that Uber
should consider hiring researchers to examine and disclose
activities of media critics, according to BuzzFeed. He singled out
Pando Daily editor Sarah Lacy, saying researchers would be able to
prove “a particular and very specific claim about her personal
Uber’s terms of service include a “very robust” arbitration clause
that would make it difficult for any individual customer to bring a
lawsuit in court, said Ira Rothken, a plaintiff attorney who has
litigated against tech companies.
An Uber spokesman did not immediately respond to a request for
comment on the company's liability.
A more serious threat for Uber would be if a state attorney general
or the U.S. Federal Trade Commission decided to investigate, Rothken
The New York’s attorney general office declined to comment on
whether it is considering investigating Uber's privacy practices.
Connecticut’s attorney general said the office had not received
complaints related to Uber and privacy and is not looking into
anything concerning the company. A spokesman for California's
attorney general said he could not confirm or deny investigations.
A spokesman for the FTC declined to comment.
If a way to sidestep the arbitration clause emerges and if someone
can prove their location information was distributed to a third
party, one avenue could be to sue under a California law forbidding
disclosure of such data to third parties without the rider's written
permission, said Chicago plaintiff lawyer Jay Edelson.
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"In addition to a serious breach of business ethics, Uber could
potentially be running afoul of federal and criminal law," Edelson
On Tuesday, Uber apologized for Michael's comments.
But on Wednesday, actor and Uber investor Ashton Kutcher escalated
the matter, tweeting, "What is so wrong about digging up dirt on
shady journalist? @pando @TechCrunch @Uber"
Pando editorial director Paul Carr said the company was not
considering legal action.
"Clearly the comment was revolting and unforgivable," he wrote in an
email. "But we have to focus on doing our jobs right now rather than
suing the idiot bro from 'Dude, Where’s My Car?'”
(Reporting by Sarah McBride and Dan Levine; Additional reporting by
Alina Selyukh, Karen Freifeld, and Jim Finkle; Editing by Leslie
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