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Wait, Is Lyft Bad Now, Too?

Lyft faces allegations it spied on riders. Isn’t it supposed to be the ethical alternative to Uber?

Lyft, the ride-share company often seen as Uber’s more ethical little brother, is now facing a problem that sounds familiar: allegations that employees spied on passengers. Almost exactly two years after Uber paid a $20,000 fine to New York regulators for allowing its employees access to a “God View” tool that tracked rider and driver locations without their permission, there are reports alleging Lyft’s employees also have a habit of snooping on customers.

The Information reported on Thursday that an unidentified user of the app Blind, which employees use to anonymously complain about their companies, claimed to have worked at Lyft and noted that the staff had been using the data to spy on passengers of interest. The post alleges that employees were stalking “attractive people they’ve met,” checking up on exes and significant others, and even collecting personal info of public figures like Mark Zuckerberg, porn stars, and film actresses. Lyft confirmed to reporters that it was looking into the anonymous tip.

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TechCrunch also reported a separate source who formerly worked at Lyft claimed staffers throughout the company “see pretty much everything including feedback, and yes, pick up and drop off coordinates.” The unnamed source also admitted to looking up friends’ rider history and driver feedback. There are cases in which some Lyft employees do need access to personal information, such as cases in which a passenger loses an item, but the behavior described in the allegations is far more invasive.

Lyft gave TechCrunch the following statement. The company hasn’t responded to a request for comment from Slate at the time of publication:

Maintaining the trust of passengers and drivers is fundamental to Lyft. The specific allegations in this post would be a violation of Lyft’s policies and a cause for termination, and have not been raised with our Legal or Executive teams. We are conducting an investigation into the matter. Access to data is restricted to certain teams that need it to do their jobs. For those teams, each query is logged and attributed to a specific individual. We require employees to be trained in our data privacy practices and responsible use policy, which categorically prohibit accessing and using customer data for reasons other than those required by their specific role at the company. Employees are required to sign confidentiality and responsible use agreements that bar them from accessing, using, or disclosing customer data outside the confines of their job responsibilities.

In 2014, Buzzfeed caught an Uber executive tracking the location of one of the outlet’s reporters using the God View tool. The company later restricted use of the tool to a limited number of employees and disciplined the executive, though former Minnesota Sen. Al Franken hounded the company on its privacy policies for years afterward.

The accusations against Lyft thus far are based on a few anonymous sources. Whether the company can keep its ethical image will depend on handling them properly and avoiding some of the other missteps that plagued Uber in recent years.

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