Uber's challenge to balance driver safety with customer privacy

www.reuters.com
5 min read
fairly difficult
Margaret Bordelon can still feel the hands of the drunk man who tried to pull her in for a kiss at the end of his Uber ride last September in Lafayette, Louisiana.
NEW YORK (Reuters) - Margaret Bordelon can still feel the hands of the drunk man who tried to pull her in for a kiss at the end of his Uber ride last September in Lafayette, Louisiana.

Margaret Bordelon, a driver for Uber, looks out her car window at the location where a passenger sexually harassed her after a ride in Lafayette, Louisiana, U.S. February 16, 2020. Picture taken February 16, 2020. REUTERS/Callaghan O'Hare

An Uber driver for only a few months, Bordelon, 45, finally convinced the customer to let her go. Since he booked the ride through a friend, she did not know his name.

After reporting the incident by phone to Uber the same night, a company representative told her that she would no longer be paired with the account holder. Beyond that, there was little else she could do for protection.

"When I asked Uber what it was going to do to protect me and other women going forward, I received no response," Bordelon recalled.

Uber reiterated the message to her in writing a day later, saying that any behavior involving violence, sexual misconduct, or illegal activity "can result in the immediate loss of access to the app" for the customer.

Uber declined to address how it responded specifically in Bordelon's case, and 14 other U.S. female drivers Reuters spoke with said Uber never told them what steps the company took after they reported assault or sexual harassment by customers.

"Safety is essential to Uber," a spokesman said in a statement. "Over the last two years, we've launched more (safety) features than in the previous eight."

The 15 women interviewed by Reuters, contacted through social media support groups, do not represent a comprehensive review of Uber's response to allegations of acts of violence against drivers. But data published by Uber in December - a first for the industry - showed drivers were the victims in nearly half of about 6,000 reports of sexual assault during Uber rides in the United States in 2017 and 2018.

The interviews and…
Tina Bellon
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