Los Angeles has suspended Uber’s permit to rent electric scooters and bicycles because the corporation refused to follow the city’s rules on data sharing.
The temporary suspension could result in the city confiscating scooters and bikes of Uber’s subsidiary Jump. It marks the latest conflict between local governments and the rideshare company, which has repeatedly flouted traditional transportation regulations.
Out of eight companies granted permits to operate scooters in LA, Uber is the only one that has refused to provide its data to the city, Colin Sweeney, the Los Angeles Department of Transportation (LADOT) spokesperson said Monday. The city suspended Uber’s permit last week, and if the company does not appeal the suspension by Friday, the permit would officially be revoked, he said.
Uber and its subsidiary Jump, which operates the scooters and bikes, have threatened to sue the city over the dispute.
“Our permit specifications are important … so that we can ensure the safety and livability of our neighborhoods, and so we can manage the companies and ensure they are abiding by the rules,” Sweeney told the Guardian. “Jump is the only one that is not in compliance.”
The LA suspension follows months of debate over a policy that requires the companies to provide data to the city on the trips each vehicle takes. The city argues that information helps it track the number of scooters and bikes in use and where they are being parked in an effort to address concerns about the electric vehicles clogging sidewalks and neighborhoods.
Uber and some privacy groups, however, have raised concerns about surveillance and have argued the tracking could allow for the misuse of personal data.
“We believe that LADOT’s requirements to share sensitive real-time location data compromises our customers’ expectations of data privacy and security,” an Uber spokesperson said in a statement Monday. “Independent privacy experts have clearly and repeatedly asserted that a customer’s geolocation is personally identifiable information.”
The statement said Uber had no choice but to “pursue a legal challenge”, adding, “We sincerely hope to arrive at a solution that allows us to provide reasonable data and work constructively with the City of Los Angeles while protecting the privacy of our riders.”
The city has strict privacy and confidentiality standards, and the data is not subject to public records requests, said Sweeney: “It’s held in the highest confidence. The city only collects data on scooters, not riders.”
Uber received multiple warnings about the potential suspension before it went into effect. Users in LA can still rent Jump bikes and scooters this week while the permit is suspended, but if it is formally revoked, it will no longer be lawful for the company to operate. At that point, the bikes and scooters would be subject to confiscation, said Sweeney.
Jump’s permit allows for 5,500 scooters and bikes, and the company currently has more than 2,000 on the streets of LA. The city approved a total of 36,170 dockless vehicles across LA, including permits for Uber, Lyft, Lime, Bird, Spin and several others.
The arrival of scooters in cities across America has prompted a number of legal battles.
In Santa Monica, California, the city filed a criminal complaint against the company Bird after scooters appeared on the streets overnight before legislation had been adopted. San Francisco initially banned scooters after a chaotic rollout.
Over the years, Uber has also defied regulations surrounding self-driving cars, and in 2016 was forced to remove them from San Francisco.