Uber knows everything about me except (apparently) my gender

Uber knows everything about me except (apparently) my gender

Uber knows where I live, it knows where I work and where I’m going out for dinner.

It even wants to know who I’m sleeping with, publishing data tracking potential one-night stands by its customers in a 2012 post on its website called “Rides of Glory” (since deleted).

Uber says it doesn't collect gender information.

Uber says it doesn't collect gender information.

It’s keen for more and more information about me, including finding out when I’m drunk, filing a patent last month with the US Patent and Trademark Office for technology capable of determining a passenger’s state of mind.

However, the global giant which has grown to $US68 billion ($85 billion) market valuation on the back of this avalanche of data, apparently doesn’t have any information on whether its passengers are male or female.


After detailing my suspicion that my low Uber passenger rating (which once sank as far as 4.23 stars out of 5) was impacted by my gender I got in touch with Uber to find out how female and male passenger ratings compare.

A spokeswoman for Uber told me the company does not have this information.

“We don’t collection gender information when a rider signs up, therefore can’t analyse ratings in this way,” she says.

Gender information would be available when Uber users sign up through Facebook or frequent flyer programs and a basic analysis of names would also indicate gender in a majority of cases.

However, the spokeswoman says there would be privacy implications with analysing data in this way.

It seems Uber is interested in the minutiae of my daily life, except where such details may establish a pattern of discrimination on the basis of gender.

That discrimination was outlined by readers who got in touch to say they have experienced everything from subtle discrimination to ‘slut shaming’ and assault.

One reader Claire said there was a double standard in Uber ratings that negatively impacts women.

“I’m 51 years old, I’m not behaving wildly in an Uber, but ever since I had a particularly creepy driver, I have always sat in the back seat and I don’t always chat. And to those who say your rating doesn’t matter, hell yeah it does. If a driver has multiple options of course he’s gonna choose the passengers with higher ratings.”

Another reader Jessicha said she has taken three Sunday morning trips in the last year, and after each her rating has dived.

“I know what my driver thinks he was picking me up from and frankly it is none of their business,” she says. “It bothers me that my driver was able to rate me down when all I did was get in the car and ride back to my home.”

These experiences are backed up by researchers in the United States who have identified racial and gender discrimination in drivers for Uber and its competitors Lyft and Flywheel.

The study by MIT in 2016 looked at more than 1400 cases where they found users with "African American sounding names" faced longer waiting times compared to those with more “white sounding” names.

The researchers also found evidence that drivers took female passengers for longer, more expensive, rides.

Female Uber drivers are calling for safer working conditions.

Female Uber drivers are calling for safer working conditions.Credit:Eddie Jim

Female Uber drivers say they also face discrimination from passengers and are campaigning for safer working conditions.


Uber’s spokeswoman says Uber has a clear non-discrimination policy.

“We do not tolerate any discrimination based on race, religion, national origin, disability, sexual orientation, sex, marital status, gender identity, age, etc,” she says.

“If we receive reports of potential discrimination, we have a specialised team dedicated to conducting a reasonable investigation, which includes speaking with the rider and driver-partner involved," she says. "At the conclusion of our investigation, we then take action as we deem appropriate, which may include restricting access to the Uber app.”

But if Uber really cared so much about discrimination a good start would be identifying how female and male passengers are rated.

It would be a better use of its data analysis than tracking one-night stands.

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Cara is the small business editor for The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald based in Melbourne

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