TIME Security

Uber Data Breach Put 50,000 Drivers’ Info at Risk

Berlin's Taxis As German Court Considers Uber Technologies Inc. Ban
Bloomberg—Bloomberg via Getty Images A passenger holds a HTC Corp. smartphone displaying the Uber Technologies Inc. car service application (app) as they sit in a taxi in this arranged photograph in Berlin, Germany, on Monday, Nov. 24, 2014.

But it isn't aware of any foul play as a result

A data breach at Uber last spring put tens of thousands of drivers’ personal information at risk, the company said late Friday.

Uber said it first realized its systems may have been breached by a third party in September of last year. After an investigation, the company found an “unauthorized access” by a “third party” occurred on May 13 of last year, which resulted in the names and license numbers of 50,000 drivers being leaked.

The car-hailing company didn’t specify who the third party was. However, Uber says it has since blocked further access to the database in question as well as alerted affected drivers.

Uber isn’t yet aware of any identify theft or other foul play as a result of the breach. It’s also offering one year of fraud protection to the drivers involved.

“Uber takes seriously our responsibility to safeguard personal information, and we are sorry for any inconvenience this incident may cause,” a blog post from Uber Managing Counsel of Data Privacy Katherine Tassi said. “In addition, today we filed a lawsuit that will enable us to gather information to help identify and prosecute this unauthorized third party.”

MONEY Travel

Take Enough Ubers and You’ll Get a Free Night at a Sheraton

Uber and the hospitality giant Starwood have teamed up to offer reward points for using the ridesharing service.

TIME Innovation

Five Best Ideas of the Day: February 24

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

1. For some returning from war, a ‘G.I. bill for farming’ eases the transition home.

By Abby Wendle at Harvest Public Media

2. In Egypt, a class project to fight sexual harassment has grown into a campus-wide movement encouraging women to “Speak Up.”

By Ahmed Fouad in Al-Monitor

3. Your kid’s school is missing the tech revolution, and it’s all your fault.

By Jason Tanz in Wired

4. Community courts focus on rehabilitation and compassion for non-violent offenders.

By Henry Gass in the Christian Science Monitor

5. A new ‘Uber for packages’ service is partnering with Waffle House to build a network of delivery points around the south.

By Amar Toor in the Verge

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME apps

See the SOS Button That Uber Rolled Out in India

The feature enables users to make an emergency call to local police in two taps.

Uber rolled out its new SOS button in India on Wednesday as it looks to boost security measures following the alleged rape of a customer by one of its drivers.

After introducing tougher background checks for its drivers in India, the company said earlier this week that it would add a panic button to its app. The feature, which enables users to make an emergency call to local police in two taps, became available in India on Wednesday, and the company says it would eventually be available worldwide.

Uber

The San Francisco-based company also released the “Send Status” feature in India, which allows users to share details about their driver and route with up to five contacts in a move intended to increase accountability.

Uber

Uber has faced safety concerns around the world, and a woman who says she was raped by an Uber driver in New Delhi in December is suing the company in a U.S. federal court.

 

TIME privacy

The 7 Weirdest Things People Left in Uber Cars

Uber At $40 Billion Valuation Would Eclipse Twitter And Hertz
Bloomberg/Getty Images The Uber Technologies Inc. logo is displayed on the window of a vehicle after dropping off a passenger at Ronald Reagan National Airport (DCA) in Washington on Nov. 26, 2014.

A "lost and found" list was found on a public site

Uber mistakenly posted an internal “lost and found” list to a public website, Motherboard discovered, offering a glimpse at more than 150 items Los Angeles-area riders have left behind.

According to screenshots posted by Motherboard, the list groups items under common categories such as wallets, suit cases, keys and phones. Then there are the “others,” ranked here in ascending order of weirdness:

1. A Patti Smith record

2. Selfie Stick

3. Medical marijuana ID

4. Knife

5. Santa hat

6. $500 cash

7. Crisco oil and ice breakers mint

The lost and found list also included some riders’ contact details. An Uber spokesperson has since apologized for the privacy lapse and vowed to investigate the leak so that it doesn’t happen again. People carrying oddball items into Uber cars, take note.

Read more at Motherboard.

TIME apps

Uber Gets a Panic Button in India

Following rape allegations against a driver

Uber riders in India will now have a panic button on their app that alerts local police in an emergency.

Launching Feb. 11, the panic button will initially be unveiled in India in response to new security measures there that followed rape allegations against a driver, Engadget reports. The new feature will eventually be available worldwide.

The panic button comes after an Indian woman’s allegations that she was raped by an Uber driver in December. The Indian transportation department initially asked Uber for a physical panic button in each car, but the company explained its decision to put the button in-app:

“In addition to causing confusion, we found that not only are physical buttons prone to wear and tear, but also mechanical malfunctions,” the ride-hailing company said. “There is no way to ensure that they are kept in working condition across all the cars in the city.”

TIME Autos

How Driverless Cars Will Sneak Up on Us All

Gov. Brown Signs Legislation At Google HQ That Allows Testing Of Autonomous Vehicles
Justin Sullivan—Getty Images A Google self-driving car is displayed at the Google headquarters on September 25, 2012 in Mountain View, California.

Our cars will gradually start doing more of the driving themselves — until they do all of it

The news that car-hailing company Uber is opening up a research facility to work on driverless cars foretells one of many possible automotive futures: A world in which personal car ownership is made obsolete by city-roaming fleets of autonomous cars waiting for you to ask them to come pick you up.

That particular future might never arrive. While major automakers and tech companies like Audi, Google and now Uber are hard at work perfecting autonomous cars, they have well-documented challenges in the form of technology and policy. But there’s another speedbump ahead, too: Convincing people to let a computer take control when they’re screaming down the interstate at 70 miles per hour. In an early 2014 study by research firm Harris Interactive, only 12% of respondents said they were ready to say, “HAL, take the wheel!”

For driverless cars to go mainstream, the companies working on them will have to convince consumers they’re as safe (or safer) than human-driven vehicles. The trick here lies in a gradual rollout. Semi-autonomous features like park assist or collision avoidance are already popping up in cars on the road today, marketed as convenience- or safety-boosting tools. (Such technology also helps manufacturers drive prices up.) That’s already gotten drivers slightly more comfortable with the idea that cars can do some driving themselves. Once those features become more widely available, it’ll mean that when cars start asking to do a little more—say, take control in a highway carpool lane—drivers will be more likely to let their car become a chauffeur.

What’s unclear here is what happens to automakers when one of them (or someone else) finally starts selling driverless cars. Audi, BMW, Ford and the rest would presumably prefer a world where millions of people still buy their cars. They don’t care if the cars are being driven by a computer instead of a person so long as they’re selling lots of them.

But the hypothetical autonomous Uber future clashes with that: Why should people bother buying a car when they can hail a self-driving car to their doorstep whenever they need one? In that world, Uber would still need to buy lots of cars, but it would probably be nowhere near the number consumers are buying today.

That’s the fascinating irony of automated cars: There’s a chance that, in building them, automakers could be innovating themselves into obsolescence. That explains why car companies are doing things like building Silicon Valley research labs: Their best hope might be beating Uber at its own game by supplying both the driverless cars and the software platform on which they’ll run. Thankfully for the automakers, they have plenty of time to figure things out before we’re all zipping around in cars without steering wheels.

TIME energy

Electric Utilities Face a Disruptive Future

solar-panels
Getty Images

The first wave of disruption to electric generation has been a technology as benign as solar power units on rooftops

Cheap gas and oil aren’t the only forces disrupting the U.S. electric system. Solar is already wreaking havoc, and large-scale batteries are looming.

What Uber and Lyft have done to the taxi industry worldwide is just beginning to happen to the electricity industry; and it could shock consumers — particularly the less affluent — as surely as though they had stuck their finger in an electrical outlet.

The disruptive revolution is not only happening here, but also in Europe, as Marc Boillot, senior vice president at Electricite de France (EDF), the giant French utility, writes in a new book.

Ironically, here in the United States, disruption of the otherwise peaceful world of electric generation and sale last year was a bumper one for electric stocks because of their tradition of paying dividends at a time when bond yields were low.

Read more: Drought Forcing Brazil To Turn To Gas

The first wave of disruption to electric generation has been a technology as benign as solar power units on rooftops, much favored by governments and by environmentalists as a green source of electricity. For the utilities, these rooftop generators are a threat to the integrity of the electrical grid. To counter this, utilities would like to see the self-generators pay more for the upkeep of the grid and the convenience it affords them.

Think of the grid as a series of spider webs built around utility companies serving particular population centers, and joined to each other so they can share electricity, depending on need and price.

Enter the self-generating homeowner, who by law is entitled to sell excess production back to the grid, or to buy on the grid when it is very cold or the sun isn’t shining, as at night. The system of selling back to the electric company is known as net metering.

Good deal? Yes, for the homeowner who can afford to install a unit or lease one from one of a growing number of companies that provide that service. Lousy deal for the full-time electricity customer who rents or lives in an apartment building.

There’s the rub: Who pays the cost of maintaining the grid while the rooftop entrepreneur uses it at will? Short answer: everyone else.

In reality, the poor get socked. Take Avenue A with big houses at one end and apartments and tenements at the other. The big houses — with their solar panels and owners’ morally superior smiles — are being subsidized by the apartments and tenements. They have to pay to keep the grid viable, while the free-standing house — it doesn’t have to be a mansion — gets a subsidy.

It’s a thorny issue, akin to the person who can’t use Uber or Lyft because he doesn’t have a credit card or a smartphone, and has to hope that traditional taxi service will survive.

Read more: Utilities Facing Coal Shortages Due To Rail Congestion

The electric utilities, from the behemoths to the smallest municipal distributor, see the solution in an equity fee for the self-generating customer’s right to come on and off the grid, and for an appreciable difference between his selling and buying price. Solar proponents say, not fair: Solve your own problems. We are generating clean electricity and our presence is a national asset.

EDF’s Boillot sees the solution in the utilities’ own technological leap forward: the so-called smart grid. This is the computerization of the grid so that it is more finely managed, waste is eliminated, and pricing structures for homes reflect the exact cost at the time of service. His advice was eagerly sought when he was in Washington recently, promoting his book, entitled “Advanced Smart Grids.”

While today’s solar may be a problem for the utilities, tomorrow’s may be more so. Homeowners who can afford it may be able to get off the grid altogether by using the battery in an all-electric car to tide them over during the sunless hours.

The industry is not taking this lying down: It’s talking to the big solar firms, the regulators and, yes, to Elon Musk, founder of electric-car maker Tesla Motors. He may be the threat and he may be the savior; those all-electric cars will need a lot of charging, and stations for that are cropping up. There’s a ray of sunshine for the utilities, but it’s quite a way off. Meanwhile, the rooftop disruption is here and now.

This article originally appeared on Oilprice.com.

More from Oilprice.com:

MONEY Autos

Google, Uber May Clash Over Driverless Taxis

Google is reportedly developing a ride-booking app using driverless cars, while Uber is making a big investment in robotics. Game on!

TIME apps

Uber Rolls Out Tougher Driver Background Checks After India Rape Case

Drivers will be subject to criminal database searches

Uber introduced the tougher background checks in India on Monday that the ride-hailing app had promised after the alleged rape of a customer by one of its drivers in December.

The company said it’s partnering with First Advantage, which performs background checks, to begin screening all of its India drivers in a more in-depth fashion. The new screening process will include requiring address verification, a local criminal court search and a national criminal database search, Uber said in a blog post.

“We have a deep, long-term commitment to set the highest standard for safety across the industry,” the company said. “Our efforts to this commitment in India and around the world will be tireless and absolute.”

Uber was banned in New Delhi after a 25-year-old woman accused the driver, Shiv Kumar Yadav, of assaulting her during a ride home in December. The woman is now suing Uber in its home state of San Francisco, while the driver has been charged with rape and kidnapping in a New Delhi court.

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