go to content
Tech

Sen. Al Franken Demands Lyft Explain Its Privacy Policies

The senator expresses concern that Lyft's revised restrictions on access to customer data still does not clearly define which Lyft employees have access.

Posted on

In a letter to Lyft, U.S. Senator Al Franken called on the transit company and Uber's biggest competitor to provide explicit details about its privacy policy.

"Consumers must be able to make informed decisions about whether and with whom they share personal information, and must be assured that when such information is shared it will receive the utmost protection," the letter reads.

The letter comes after BuzzFeed News reported that a NY Uber executive accessed this reporter's data and information without permission. Though Lyft employees, as BuzzFeed News reported (a story that Sen. Franken later cited), have the same access to user data that Uber employees do the company chose not to comment on the privacy issues or their general privacy rules as "a matter of policy."

Sen. Franken, the chairman of the subcommittee on Privacy, Technology, and the Law, included a list of 10 questions for Lyft to answer. Specifically, in light of revised restrictions on which employees have access to user information that a Lyft spokeswoman said the company imposed, Sen. Franken asked that Lyft disclose which employees still have access to data and what qualifies as a proper use of data. Furthermore, the Minnesota senator asks that Lyft explain whether accessing Re/Code reporter Liz Gannes' account without permission was a violation of past or current policies.

The senator also asks Lyft to divulge what kind of privacy training employees underwent and what methods of monitoring "improper use of customer data" Lyft has employed.

"It is critically important that sound privacy policies are not only established but are also adequately communicated to employees and affiliates, as well as customers, and are appropriately enforced," Sen. Franken writes. "I am particularly concerned about this in light of reports of past conduct suggesting inadequate regard among Lyft executives for customers' privacy."

Sen. Franken asks that Lyft respond by Dec. 31.

In a statement Lyft spokeswoman Erin Simpson provided to BuzzFeed News, Simpson said the company looks forward to discussing its "commitment to consumer privacy in depth."

"We share Senator Franken's dedication to keeping consumers and their information safe," the statement read. "People nationwide have embraced Lyft because of the improved accountability and transparency built into the platform, and we have continued to upgrade our existing privacy safeguards. The respect and rights of our users are at our core as a company..."

Johana Bhuiyan is a tech reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in New York. Bhuiyan reports on the sharing economy with a focus on ridesharing companies.

Contact Johana Bhuiyan at johana.bhuiyan@buzzfeed.com.

Got a confidential tip? Submit it here.