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Uber taps former IBM privacy executive to review policies

A sticker with the Uber logo is displayed in the window of a car.Photograph by Justin Sullivan—Getty Images

Uber has hired a privacy expert to review how it handles data it collects about passengers using the ride-hailing service amid intense criticism about the company’s privacy practices.

The move follows a public relations mess for the company after a senior executive told a reporter that he would hire opposition researchers to dig into journalists backgrounds. It also comes after reports about another executive who tracked a reporter using the company’s app without her permission.

Uber hired Harriet Pearson and the law firm Hogan Lovells to work with its privacy team as an outside auditor. The firm will conduct a comprehensive review of Uber’s data privacy program and recommend any needed improvements, Uber said.

“The trip history of our riders is important information,” the company said in its statement. “We understand that we must treat it carefully and with respect, protecting it from unauthorized access.”

Pearson, who was previously the chief privacy officer for IBM, advises companies on security and privacy breach responses and reparations as well as self-regulatory processes. She has been dubbed the “First Lady of Privacy” and was one of the first and longest-serving chief privacy officers in the Fortune 500.

Yesterday, Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., wrote Uber asking a series of questions about its privacy practices and saying that recent news reports “suggest a troubling disregard for customers’ privacy.”