An Open Letter to Uber

March 15, 2023

Dear Uber,

My name is John Roa, and I’m the CEO of Caden. We’re a technology company in New York City whose goal is to empower the average person to control and benefit from their personal data—and provide companies like Uber with more accurate, ethical, consent-based user data in the process. Caden is backed by top investors like Yahoo! founder Jerry Yang, DoubleClick founding member Wenda Harris Millard, and a dozen top venture capital firms.

Our mission is simple: give every citizen the opportunity to participate in the data economy, and benefit from it. In turn, we strive to help companies like Uber benefit by giving users more control and consent around how their personal data is used.

Personally, I am a big fan and user of Uber (Caden recently told me I’ve taken over 1600 rides in 1700 days!) My fiancée actually has me a lot. I have deep appreciation and empathy for your business and business model. My goal with this letter is to acknowledge Caden’s mission in the marketplace, make a case for the user, explain the significant long-term value to Uber, and invoke tangible partnership conversations to build this future together.

As you know, legislation like CPRA includes a Right to Access clause which allows users of services like Uber to request copies of their data. Additionally, the CPRA includes a Right of Portability which requires any electronic information must be provided in a format that can be easily ported to a different service provider. In Uber case, that would include a record of rides a user has taken or food orders they've made. That is data each user has a right to, and is also valuable data for a user to be in control of. Not only can that data help to tell a story (what is my positive carbon impact by using ride sharing vs. having a car?) but if a user so chose, that data could be directly monetizable by the user, which is their right.

As a privacy-minded company, Uber has already done a great job giving users the ability to access this data in passive ways. We’ve very grateful to see that. However, the presently available methods create friction and only let a user access their data at a certain moment in time.

On behalf of Caden and our users, we would like to engage in a direct conversation about Uber providing more technology-enabled methods (like a secure API) for users to access their own data, so they can connect it to other sources freely. This is in the spirit of what various global data privacy laws mandate with Right to Access and Right to Portability, and is also what banks have opened up to create the innovative Open Banking sector.

It goes without saying: this data-sharing freedom would benefit companies like Caden and many others in our industry as we work to open up walled gardens and empower users. However, we also believe this creates a number of significant advantages for Uber as well.

First, more than half of your users rate their privacy as “extremely important”1 and 92% of customers appreciate companies giving them control over what information is collected about them2. We are in the middle of a rapid transition to a privacy-first internet, and brands who create data security, privacy, transparency and portability are going to win consumer favor. Uber has had both wins and losses in the public conversation user privacy. We believe there are  ways to lead the charge for user rights and build valuable brand equity.

Second, while we recognize that letting data more freely flow out of our walled gardens is antithetical to how we’ve looked at digital marketing for the last couple decades, there is a significant benefit when you consider data can then easily flow back to Uber. 83% of consumers are willing to share their data to create a more personalized experience3. This means that by allowing users to more freely access and transport their data, you are not only adhering to a privacy promise that users find important, but you are now equipping users to share amazing data back to you (imagine: users automagically share with Uber their restaurant reservations or vacations so you can customize their pickup experience). More user control of data means revolutionary access to consent-based high-quality first-party data that does not sit in silos. As the undisputed leader in the subscription economy, we know that Uber lives and breathes consumer behavior and finds opportunities to surprise users with prescient, data-driven experiences. What better way to take that user stickiness into the next generation than to open a dialogue with users where they can provide the information stream necessary to make every user’s experience even more bespoke?

Third, Uber and all modern consumer brands are rapidly losing the ability to connect with users through their data, and this downturn comes at an incredible cost. The IAB recently said that 50% of signal has already been lost4, and that will only get worse. IAPP estimates new privacy laws will cost American businesses a trillion dollars over 10 years5. Between third-party cookie depreciation, Apple’s ATT and other similar measures, ad effectiveness is severely diminished. The most effective way to speak to the customer, whether internally, externally, or to support your own ad platform, is to do it with fully consented and ethically-sourced data that comes straight from the user.

This is why we ask that Uber implements sanctioned APIs that allow users to access their personal data in realtime without obstruction. Open Banking gave us a model that Uber can follow to create a valuable ecosystem of fully-private but freely-flowing data. And we’d love to help you execute it.

Please let me know personally if you are open to the conversation. It is my commitment that the full extent of my small but mighty team will work to make Uber more successful in promoting privacy, fairness and security.

John Roa

Founder, CEO