California hits Uber with $59 million fine over sex assault data

Uber says it didn't want to disclose personal information of survivors.

December 15, 2020, 12:46 PM

California regulators hit Uber with a $59 million fine for allegedly refusing to provide more detailed information about sexual assault and harassment claims.

An administrative judge upheld the fine Monday, saying that Uber's permits in California could be suspended if it failed to pay the fine and cooperate with the California Public Utilities Commission.

The fines stemmed from information on sexual assault and harassment cases that Uber self-reported in its 2019 U.S. Safety Report. The precedent-setting report said Uber received nearly 6,000 claims of sexual assault from both riders and drivers in 2017 and 2018.

An Uber spokesperson told ABC News that the CPUC was demanding private information about sexual assault survivors without their consent before it slapped the company with the fine and eventually "changed its tune."

PHOTO: Passengers connect with Uber drivers at LAX airport in Los Angeles, Aug. 20, 2020.
Passengers connect with Uber drivers at LAX airport in Los Angeles, Aug. 20, 2020.
Los Angeles Times via Getty Images, FILE

"In December 2019, we were the first company in the industry to release a U.S. Safety Report. Since then, the CPUC has been insistent in its demands that we release the full names and contact information of sexual assault survivors without their consent," an Uber company spokesperson said in a statement. "We opposed this shocking violation of privacy, alongside many victims’ rights advocates."

"Now, a year later, the CPUC has changed its tune: we can provide anonymized information -- yet we are also subject to a $59 million fine for not complying with the very order the CPUC has fundamentally altered," the statement added. "These punitive and confusing actions will do nothing to improve public safety and will only create a chilling effect as other companies consider releasing their own reports. Transparency should be encouraged, not punished."

The CPUC declined ABC News' request for comment Tuesday morning, saying the ruling speaks for itself.

While the CPUC said in public filings it will now work with Uber to anonymize personal information about survivors, it is still asking the ridehailing service to pay the fine.

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