Uber's latest update comes with an unusually long permissions request attached. It's one that has many people concerned that the app is taking more information from your iPhone that you'd like. Open Uber after updating and you'll be presented with the following message: "Allow 'Uber' to access your location even when you are not using the app? Uber collects your location data from the time of trip request through five minutes after the trip ends, including when the app is in the background. We do this to improve pickups, drop-offs, customer service, and to enhance safety. You can turn off location data any time in your phone's device settings." You can choose not to provide tracking permission, but using the app will be more of a hassle. You'll always have to manually enter pickup and drop-off information, and a driver's perception of where you are may not be as accurate.
Which leads to the inevitable question: Is the update sketchy? Previously, Uber only knew your whereabouts if you had requested a car and kept the app open and in the foreground on your phone for the duration of your ride. If you requested a car and then went to check your email, the app no longer knew where you were. This had its downsides. If, for example, you requested a car and claimed that it never came, Uber would only have the driver's account to go on and you would probably be charged. Now, Uber will track your location from your request through five minutes after your ride, regardless of whether you have the app open. Those five minutes post-ride are intended to help developers determine if there are drop-offs at incorrect locations. So, if it looks like you are walking far from where you were dropped off to your destination, it will be clear that the app's geolocation services are telling drivers to go to a bad spot — maybe one that requires you to cross a busy street. According to an Uber spokesperson, this data will be used to improve rider safety. The spokesperson also said that the tracking will be useful in correcting inaccuracies for Uber Pool pickups, too. So, while you're right to question the terms of the update, it seems like more of a standard attempt at app improvement than it does a legitimate cause for concern.