If you are an Uber user, you would probably agree that it is a convenience that has quickly become an essential part of one’s life. But over a period of time, Uber gets to know a lot about you: your place of work, favorite eating joints or shopping destinations, how often you travel, your residence and much more. Such information has turned Uber into a big “data-mine” just like Google, Visa, MasterCard and Facebook. Companies can either use this data to provide better deals or sell it to other companies that work on delivering customized advertising and related offers. (See also: How Do Ride-sharing Companies Like Uber Make Money?)
In 2015, Uber announced its partnership with Starwood Hotels & Resorts. According to Uber, 72% of the more than 290 cities where Uber operated featured a Starwood hotel. Until 2017, when the partnership ended, Uber offered Starwood Preferred Guest (SPG) members the opportunity to earn coveted Starpoints during any ride on the Uber platform. Uber users could link their Starwood and Uber accounts, and after completing the requirements of a stay at a hotel, SPG members earned one Starpoint for every dollar spent on Uber.
In the past, Boston and Uber announced a partnership to help solve problems by leveraging data provided by Uber. The news release said that Uber would ensure the privacy of riders and drivers while sharing the data which “will provide new insights to help manage urban growth, relieve traffic congestion, expand public transportation, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.” The data provided by Uber can be of great help to policymakers and city planners understand traffic patterns, destination times and congested routes, which can help the city streamline congestion and improve traffic flows.
In 2017, Uber also announced plans to release data to urban planners of various cities. According to the rideshare company, this data could help communities compare travel conditions and how big events or road closures affect travel times. The data was initially released to planners, city officials and research organizations, through Uber's website Movement, with plans to also become available to the general public.
Amber Alert Program
Uber has partnered with the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC) as a result of which, Uber driver-partners in over 180 cities across the U.S. receive time-sensitive and critical AMBER Alerts specific to their region. According to Robert Hoever, Director of Special Programs, NCMEC, “The AMBER Alert program’s success is built on the ability to reach the right people at the right time with these potentially life-saving messages. Uber’s presence in communities all across the country will be an incredible asset and we are proud to team up with Uber to increase the reach of the AMBER Alert program and help bring more missing children home safely.” Uber covers 75% of the population in the U.S. and this allows a wide reach for the AMBER Alert program. (See also: JP Morgan’s Big Data View On the Sharing Economy.)
The Bottom Line
There are essentially two kinds of data which can be used by such companies, one is aggregate which gives all information but hides Personally Identifiable Information (PII) while the other keeps the PII. Thus, customers are not just a source of revenue for a company’s core business, the information about them is used by many companies to generate additional revenue. Credit card companies, mobile operators, search sites or social networking sites have access to huge customer information like preferences, age category, usage patterns, transaction amounts and more, which turns such companies into ‘big data’ companies by default.