Privacy battles are playing out across the country but, in California, the next big fight is centered around something you’d least expect. The City of Los Angeles is fighting to obtain data from Uber-owned JUMP’s dockless scooters, as reported by Politico.
City officials say they want the data to inform public transit policies and ensure lower-income neighborhoods are being served. However, it seems JUMP won’t be handing over data anytime soon.
According to Politico, in a letter to Los Angeles Department of Transportation manager Seleta Reynold, the company claimed this would lead to “an unprecedented level of surveillance, oversight, and control that LADOT would wield over private companies and individual citizens.”
Although Uber has had issues with data privacy in the past — recently reaching a $148 million settlement with California over a massive data breach — privacy advocates seem to be siding with the company on this issue.
Dockless scooters store a lot more information than you think. They can definitely have personal identifiers and location data. This is especially sensitive when it comes to dockless transportation, because people take themselves straight to work, school, or home.
“I think it’s the big privacy issue of the next few years,” Joseph Jerome, policy counsel for the Center for Democracy and Technology’s data and privacy project, told Politico. “This sort of combination of data in public hands is going to be a bigger and bigger issue, and when it’s geolocation there are some particular questions.”
The city says the data they want to collect wouldn’t contain personal identifiers and it wouldn’t be subject to public record requests. In addition, officials say the data wouldn’t be shared with the police unless they had a warrant.
However, Politico reported former Los Angeles Assemblyman Mike Gatto said when government agencies create public databases, “law enforcement has the ability to access it, and they will.”
Gatto’s warning isn’t random. In the past, police officers have accessed state databases for sketchy reasons.
Once, Kensington police officers accessed a “highly confidential” database to get information on a former elected official who critiqued the department, as reported by The Mercury News.
Dockless forms of transportation are starting to pop up all over the country, including bikes.The fight going on between LA and JUMP is important to watch, because it may foreshadow a larger national battle that’s soon to come.