California fines Uber $59 million for not sharing sexual assault case data

An Uber pick-up location is pictured in San Diego, California, September 30. 2019. REUTERS/Mike Blake

Mike Blake / Reuters

Uber has been fined $59 million by California regulators over its refusal to hand over more detailed data from a 2019 report on sexual assault, the Washington Post reports. State regulators have threatened to pull its license if it doesn’t comply with the order and pay the fine. Uber disputed the ruling, telling the Post that the demand by the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) would be a “shocking violation” of the victims’ privacy.

Last last year, Uber released a landmark US report detailing the pervasiveness of sexual assault and harassment on its platform. The document detailed nearly 6,000 cases of sexual assault reported by drivers and passengers between 2017 and 2018 in the US, including 1,243 reports in California alone.

The CPUC said that after the release of the report, it was legally required to investigate the claims in the interest of public safety. It demanded the date, time and location of each reported assault, along with a description of the incident and names and contact information for witnesses and “each person to whom the assault was reported.” It also ordered the name of anyone who worked on the report. It pledged to keep any information under seal.

Uber cannot trumpet the existence of such a document but decline to provide the Commission with the facts surrounding the claims and the authorship of said document.

Uber objected to the initial request on the grounds that the release of victims’ names without their consent would contravene their rights and cause additional trauma. It also argued that there was no guarantee of the confidentiality of sensitive data. However, in its latest ruling, the CPUC said it would allow Uber to “provide a code or some other signifier rather than a victim’s name.”

In response, Uber suggested that the commission changed the rules after the fact. “The CPUC has been insistent in its demands that we release the full names and contact information of sexual assault survivors without their consent,” Uber spokesman Andrew Hasbun told the Post in a statement. “A year later, the CPUC has changed its tune: we can provide anonymized information — yet we are also subject to a $59 million fine for not complying with the very order the CPUC has fundamentally altered.”

He added that the order and fine may dissuade other companies from releasing similar reports, but the commission disagreed in its ruling. “Uber cannot trumpet the existence of such a document but decline to provide the Commission with the facts surrounding the claims and the authorship of said document,” the report reads. “The Commission would be remiss in its regulatory responsibilities if it had failed to conduct a follow-up inquiry”

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California, Uber, sexual assault, app, fine, CPUC, news, gear
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