Uber responded to concerns surrounding the background tracking behavior of its app on Friday. The transport service explained that the problem is being caused by an update to iOS and not its ride-hailing app.

Uber ride-sharing
Image: Flickr

Uber app tracking location for weeks

Concerns about the use of Uber’s location services were first raised when the company declared that to improve its service, it would track the whereabouts of customers for a few minutes after their trip ends and the app is no longer in use. The main concern of privacy advocates was that the app offered no opt-out. Since that time, many users have reported that the app goes much further and seems to track them for days or even weeks after they last used Uber’s service, even when the app is closed.

In a recent post, John Gruber of DaringFireball.net noted that an iOS feature allows users to check if Uber kept its word about limiting its location tracking to just five minutes after the drop-off. Gruber detailed that with the iOS settings, a user is able to track the apps accessing their location, according to TechCrunch.

An indicator under Settings –> Privacy –> Location Services appears next to the applications that have checked the user’s location recently. If the indicator is purple, the check was recent, while if the indicator is gray, the check was in the last 24 hours.

Gruber said in another post that many readers of his post sent screenshots of the Uber app still tracking their location even when it had been weeks or days since they last used the car service.

It’s not Uber’s fault

Now the ride-hailing service says the app’s unexpected behavior is triggered by the iOS Maps extension that Apple added to its mobile OS in September and not because of its recent location services update or a bug in the Uber app.

Apple opened up Maps in iOS 10 to third-party apps, allowing developers to build extensions that can be integrated into Maps’ search results. When an application is installed, which features an extension for Apple Maps, it is automatically integrated. However, the extension is disabled by default to keep the search results from getting too crowded, notes MacRumors.

According to an Uber spokesperson (via TechCrunch): “For people who choose to integrate ride sharing apps with iOS Maps, location data must be shared in order for you to request a ride inside the Maps app. Map extensions are disabled by default and you can choose to turn them on in your iOS settings,” they said.