Hail me a creepy driver, er, I mean, an Uber!

If you’ve ever used the hugely popular Uber app to call for a private driver to whisk you across town, then you’re familiar with all the cool parts of this 5-year-old service now offering on-demand transportation in 34 countries.

But, especially if you’re a woman, you may also have learned about the darker side of getting into a car with a stranger. Because despite the fact that Uber and competitors like Lyft claim they’ve done background checks on their drivers to make sure everything’s kosher on your cross-town drive, weird stuff can still happen.

In a lengthy post by DailyBeast’s political writer Olivia Nuzzi, Uber gets a strong critique for not only hiring some sketchy guys as chauffeurs, but for inconsistent or vague company policies that could facilitate driver harassment of passengers.

According to her post, Nuzzi’s uncomfortable experience began when she used the Uber app to call for a driver in her Manhattan neighborhood. The driver who responded, she writes, came not only with a car but with an iPad that would soon become a prop in Nuzzi’s urban drama:

I met the Uber at the corner of the street where I live near Lincoln Center in New York City, and asked the driver to take me across town. It was an unremarkable trip.

Until the end.

At the end of the ride, the Uber driver asked me if I had been near Lincoln Center a few hours earlier. I said I hadn’t, since I didn’t remember walking past there. Then he took out his iPad. “Really?” he asked. “Because you look like this girl.” He turned the iPad around to face the back seat. To my surprise, I saw a full-length, close-up picture of me, wearing the workout clothes I’d had on an hour previously.

The Uber driver asked me if I wanted him to send me the picture. I declined, and quickly got out of the car.

But this was just the beginning to a long ordeal, as Nuzzi began a series of unsatisfying conversations with a company spokesperson, who offered conflicting stories about official policies on various things, including how much Uber drivers can learn about a passenger’s personal information.

Nuzzi, who also got noticed when she wrote about her time as an intern with Anthony Weiner’s mayoral campaign, started hearing creepy Uber stories from others, including some of her Facebook friends. As she points out, Uber is  “not a car campany, but a technology company.” And as such, things can get awfully messy when a passenger feels harassed by a driver and wants to formally complain:

Of course, harassment happens in taxis just as it does in ridesharing vehicles. When a colleague of mine tweeted “it’s shocking how many young women i know who have been harassed by uber drivers” [sic], responses included, “more or less than by cab drivers? i’ve gotten all sorts of shit from cabbies.” [sic] and, “I have never once experienced inappropriate behavior from an Uber driver. Have been made to feel unsafe in cabs many times.”

But if you have a complaint about a taxi driver, you can call a phone number. It’s posted right there in the taxi along with the driver’s full name and ID number. And here in New York, the NYC Taxi & Limousine Commission makes all of its policies and driver requirements easily accessible via its website. It took about 60 seconds to track down everything a driver must pass to legally drive a NYC taxi, including a drug test, fingerprinting and a criminal background check, a defensive driving course, and a sex trafficking awareness course.

So, says Nuzzi, it’s “buyer beware” each time you pull out an app like Uber to get a quick ride somewhere.

And good luck getting a quick resolution to your Uber complaint. As Nuzzi writes:

 Uber has a form on their website where you can request help. The Daily Beast requested privacy and security policies via the form. More than 24 hours later, the request remained unanswered.

Credit: tnooz.com




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  • john

    Its really a great service! Its sad any time someone acts like a creep but I’m not sure you can ever weed them all out.

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