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Cities Uber/Lyft

The Under-the-Radar Tech Policy Fight: Uber vs. Los Angeles

Welcome to the latest fight in urban policy, where new transportation rules are being developed on GitHub. As regulators in Los Angeles prepared for tens of thousands of scooters in the city, they developed a digital tool to keep track of the vehicles and alert companies when they were breaking rules. But the tool, called Mobility Data Specification, faces strong pushback from Uber, which has its own scooter and bike business, branded as Jump. The company says the city hasn’t demonstrated it can keep the data safe and private.

The tensions are laid out clearly in this Slate piece. An Uber executive provides a particularly punchy quote: “The two places where we have the biggest problems around privacy are Egypt and Los Angeles.” The question is whether the privacy risks outweigh the potential benefits to residents of a better-managed public realm. Cities for several years have struggled to regulate new transportation modes including ride-hailing, because companies haven’t had to reveal much data about how many passengers they are ferrying and where. Cities are now looking to take some power back, but will face an uphill battle.

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