Uber Investor Ashton Kutcher Sticks Up For Executive Who Wanted To Look Into “Shady Journalists”

kutcherIf you’ve been on the internet at all this week, then you already know that Uber has found itself in hot water after an executive discussed the idea of digging up dirt on journalists critical of the company. Well, things aren’t looking much better for the ride-sharing company today after actor and investor Ashton Kutcher Tweeted his support for the executive in question. Uber has also updated its privacy policy to ease the minds of users, but it could still allow the company to track riders.

The Washington Post reports that the firestorm engulfing Uber began earlier this week when Uber executive Emil Michael reportedly suggested the company should look into the personal life of a journalist who criticized the company.

Michael allegedly suggested Uber should spend millions of dollars to hire a team of opposition researchers to spread details of the personal life of Sarah Lacy with PandoDaily – a Silicon Valley site that has a rather contentious relationship with the ride service.

The executive’s comments to Buzzfeed came a month after the journalist wrote an article about her decision to delete Uber’s app after a promotion by the company in France offered to pair riders with “hot chicks.” The journalist encouraged others to ditch the app, too.

While the Uber executive issued an apology for his remarks, saying they were supposed to be off the record, the company has none-the-less come under great scrutiny from once loyal users.

Still, the company has one famous person in their corner: Uber investor Ashton Kutcher.

The actor opened a can of worms when he posted on Twitter Wednesday asking “What is so wrong about digging up dirt on shady journalist?”

Predictably, social media users fired back.

Kutcher then replied to one user’s comment that it “Depends if they are a PUBLIC FIGURE, like you, or not,” with the assertion that “We are all public figures now!”

More Tweets from Kutcher appear to question the authenticity of claims against Michael were even true.

Finally, Kutcher made it clear that he speaks for himself, not Uber and closed the Twitter rant with this Tweet:

Kutcher’s public defense of Uber also comes on the heels of the company’s privacy policy, which had been decidedly lacking

The policy change was meant to soothe consumers’ fear of being tracked by the so-called “God View” – an internal Uber tool that allows employees to easily track riders.

“We wanted to take a moment to make very clear our policy on data privacy, which is fundamental to our commitment to both riders and drivers,” a blog post about the update states.

The post goes on to explain that the policy prohibits “all employees at every level from accessing a rider or driver’s data.”

That is, unless the company has a legitimate business purpose to do so. According to Uber legitimate business purposes include:

• Supporting riders and drivers in order to solve problems brought to their attention by the Uber community.
• Facilitating payment transactions for drivers.
• Monitoring driver and rider accounts for fraudulent activity, including terminating fake accounts and following up on stolen credit card reports.
• Reviewing specific rider or driver accounts in order to troubleshoot bugs.

So, while the policy does say employees can’t track users, it doesn’t completely do away with the possibility that it could continue to happen.

“Uber’s business depends on the trust of the riders and drivers that use our technology and platform,” the post concludes.

Unfortunately for Uber, consumers’ trust may have already left the app in the rearview mirror.

Uber investor Ashton Kutcher doesn’t see the problem with digging up dirt on a ‘shady journalist’ [The Washington Post]