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Why you should not use Uber (the car ride brokering company)

Reuters/Marcelo del Pozo
Where is your ride taking you?
  • Richard Matthew Stallman
By Richard Matthew Stallman

Software developer and software freedom activist

Published Last updated This article is more than 2 years old.

I’m not talking about the software that Uber itself runs; if Uber runs nonfree software, that tramples Uber’s freedom, and Uber deserves our sympathy for that. The injustice here is that Uber requires its users to use special software and digital services that attack their freedom in various ways.

  • That app requires running other nonfree software (in the case of Android, Google Play).
  • It requires you to let Big Brother track you, with a portable phone.
  • Uber requires you to identify yourself, both to order a cab and to pay.
  • Uber also records where you get the cab and where you go with it.
  • Uber’s clever policy of not being directly responsible for anything that goes wrong extends to harassment by drivers, and its practice of identifying passengers enables drivers to find out who the passenger is. This makes some women scared to use Uber.

This problem comes directly out of the practices listed above that mistreat all users of Uber.

Drivers are starting to complain that they’re left with little money for their work.

Uber drivers are getting shafted; Uber can arbitrarily cut their pay, and they have to work 15 hours a day. Some are trying to unionize.

We should not accept the whitewash label of “sharing economy” for companies like Uber. A more accurate term is “piecework subcontractor economy”.

It would be easy for a non-plutocratic government to prohibit this, and that’s what every country ought to do, unless/until every person gets an adequate basic income so people don’t need to be employed.

If you take an ordinary taxi and pay cash, it will generate no records associated with you — except in New York City where the government might apply face recognition to identify your photo in real time.

By the way, I don’t see anything wrong in offering taxi rides driven by attractive models of either sex. Since I believe sexual services should be legal, I would not object if they offered to fly you while driving you. However, this need not and should not be accompanied by Uber-style contempt towards women (and men).

With real taxis, you can flag one on the street or phone in any fashion; you can pay cash; you can be anonymous.

Beware of thinking of Uber as an one more option in addition to real taxis. At the moment, that’s true, but if Uber is a big success, real taxis could disappear.

Then what will you do, if you don’t want to tell Big Brother where you are going?

To recover our privacy and make democracy safe, we need to redesign digital systems so that they do not collect information about people in general. First step, don’t help any new ones gain a foothold.

Because I reject technology that mistreats me, I will never order or pay for an Uber car. I hope there will always be taxis I can use. But what about you?

Copyright (c) 2014 Richard Stallman Verbatim copying and redistribution of this entire page are permitted provided this notice is preserved.

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