It’s something urban planners have been dying to have and users will (or should) be dying to protect. Uber is a treasure trove of data about the comings and goings of people because of how it so conveniently integrates GPS locations, trip data, and such. It is, naturally, ripe for the picking for city planners and administrators who want raw and relevant data on how to improve their infrastructure as well as traffic management. To that end, Uber is announcing Movement, a website that gives everyone, from those urban planners to you and me, a look at that very data.
On the surface, Uber Movement’s goals seem altruistic. It wants to “help urban planners make informed decisions” about cities. Uber’s data can give these people insight on traffic congestion, commuter habits, points of interest, and more.
But Movement wasn’t simply sparked by Uber’s sudden realization that such data was needed. The company has long been the target of requests for information, from both such city administrators as well as authorities, for one reason or another. Uber has been reported to be quite helpful on those requests, much to the concern of privacy advocates. In a way, Movement gets those requests off Uber’s back as the data is now available for everyone to see.
Of course, it raises a lot of red flags for privacy-minded people. Naturally, Uber is promising that the data is anonymized and is basically asking for implicit trust. Of course, no company has ever been bulletproof and this might invite all sorts of people to see if they can glean more than just such anonymous data.
For now, Uber Movement requires asking for permission to access such data by simply submitting an e-mail address. Soon, however, the company plans on making the site available to the public at no charge. Hopefully, however, it has all the necessary technical, not to mention legal, precautions in place before all hell breaks loose.