Uber To Pay $9m Settlement Over Safety Reporting Failure

Uber is to pay $9 million (£6.8m) under a settlement over its refusal to provide data to California regulators on sexual assault claims, ending a two-year dispute.

The company is to pay $5m to the California Victim Compensation Board, $4m for efforts to address physical and sexual violence in the ride-hailing industry and a $150,000 fine to the state’s general fund.

Under the deal the firm will also report future sexual assault data, using a unique identifier system to protect the identities of those involved.

It said it would create an opt-in process for those who wanted to make more details of an incident available to regulators.

Image credit: Uber

Privacy

Uber had previously argued that providing details of assaults to the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) without the consent of those involved would violate their privacy rights.

RAINN, a sexual violence nonprofit that works with Uber on sexual misconduct training for drivers, had filed appeals in support of Uber using the same arguments.

“We’re glad the full commission has adopted this agreement, which was developed in collaboration with CPUC staff and experts from RAINN. Most importantly, we can move forward with a solution that preserves the privacy and agency of survivors,” Uber said in a statement.

The $4m Uber is to pay for passenger safety initiatives include an industrywide evaluation of existing procedures for reporting cases of physical and sexual violence, developing recommendations on how to receive and respond to complaints and a programme for outreach and training on violence prevention.

The contracts for the initiatives are to be administered by the CPUC’s Consumer Protection and Enforcement Division.

Regulatory dispute

In December 2019 Uber launched its first US safety report, disclosing it had received about 6,000 reports of sexual assault in the country over the previous two years.

The report, launched in response to criticism of its safety practices by legislators and activists, is to be released every two years.

Shortly afterward an administrative law judge ruled Uber must provide more detailed data, including descriptions of each sexual misconduct claim in California from 2017 to 2019, as well as the names and contact information of any witnesses, including victims and Uber employees who received the reports.

Uber initially appealed the decision with regulators, and a year later, in December 2020, the judge found Uber had “refused, without any legitimate legal or factual grounds, to comply”, and should be fined $59m.

The judge recommended regulators suspend Uber’s permits to operate in the state if it failed to pay the fine in full and comply with data requests within 30 days.

In January Uber filed a further appeal and asked to engage in negotiations to resolve the dispute, after which the judge assigned mediators. All parties submitted to a settlement proposal in July.

Matthew Broersma

Matt Broersma is a long standing tech freelance, who has worked for Ziff-Davis, ZDnet and other leading publications

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