Uber reaches agreement in California sexual assault data request

FILE PHOTO: A screen displays the company logo for Uber Technologies Inc at the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in New York, U.S., May 10, 2019. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid/File Photo

(Reuters) - Uber Technologies Inc on Thursday reached a preliminary agreement with a California regulator for sharing data on sexual assault and harassment claims on its platform while protecting victims' privacy and avoiding a $59 million fine.

Under the proposal outlined in a regulatory filing with the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC), the penalty would be reduced to $150,000, but Uber would pay $9 million to support a state victims' fund and help create industry-wide safety and reporting standards.

"We've been able to find a path forward that preserves the privacy and agency of sexual assault survivors," Tony West, Uber's chief legal officer, said in a statement.

The CPUC fined Uber in December after the company refused to share victims' detailed information, including full names and contact information, arguing that doing so would violate their right to privacy.

The dispute stems from a safety report Uber released in December 2019, disclosing 6,000 reports of sexual assault related to 2.3 billion trips in the United States in 2017 and 2018.

That report, aimed at ensuring drivers and the public that Uber was serious about safety, has put the company in the spotlight. Rival ride-hailing company Lyft Inc has promised a similar report, but said it would await the conclusion of the CPUC procedures before releasing its data.

The agreement proposed by Uber, a division of the CPUC and an anti-sexual abuse group, would see Uber provide anonymized data on past instances of assault to the agency.

Going forward, Uber will also provide anonymized data, but offer individuals the ability to opt in to being contacted by the CPUC when they report a claim. All ride-hail companies operating in California, including Lyft, would have to comply with those future data requests.

The agreement is subject to approval by an administrative judge and the full commission.

(Reporting by Tina Bellon in Austin, Texas; Editing by Leslie Adler)

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