In our journey to become a better, safer and more transparent company over the past several years, we’ve learned a simple lesson: it starts with listening. Listening to experts and advocates who have dedicated their lives to helping victims of sexual violence, and listening to their advice on how to make our policies and processes do right by survivors.
Throughout my career serving survivors in shelters, hospitals, hotlines, and investigations, the most important thing has been to give autonomy and power back to the survivor, so they can make informed decisions about their own lives. They get to decide how, when, and to whom they disclose their experiences.
That’s why today Uber is appealing the California Public Utilities Commission’s (CPUC) presiding officer’s decision regarding the disclosure of personal information of sexual assault victims related to Uber’s US Safety Report.
For the past 12 months, Uber and victim advocacy groups have stood with survivors and opposed the Commission’s demand to hand over the names and personal contact information of sexual assault survivors without their informed consent.
Despite our requests, Uber and advocates have been denied the opportunity to sit down with the CPUC and figure out a way to provide the information they seek in a way that protects the privacy, right to informed consent, and personal safety of survivors.
Last month, the administrative law judge issued a decision that, on the one hand, acknowledges that victims of sexual assault are, indeed, entitled to protect their personal information. But the decision simultaneously imposes an extraordinary $59 million fine on Uber for raising the need for such protections. The agency still wants to penalize Uber for its good-faith efforts to stand with survivors. Such a decision flies in the face not only of logic, but of nearly 50 years of hard-won victims’ rights.
The decision also provides no specifics about how Uber may now anonymize the data, provides no guarantee that the data won’t be used to re-traumatize survivors by starting investigations against their will, nor any guarantee that such information will remain anonymous in the future. In fact, the presiding officer’s decision explicitly called survivors’ consent to provide their identities to the CPUC “irrelevant.”
It’s easy to simplify this as another Uber vs. regulator issue—but it’s about something much bigger. Something risks re-traumatizing survivors and could set back corporate transparency efforts for years. This decision, if finalized, will surely send a chilling message to companies that are seeking to be more transparent and engage on this widespread societal issue.
It’s telling that RAINN, the largest anti-sexual violence organization in the nation, has filed a formal appeal to the Commission. This is in addition to public statements from RALIANCE, California Coalition Against Sexual Assault, National Network to End Domestic Violence, It’s on Us, NO MORE and Tina Tchen, President and CEO of TIME’S UP, and the former Executive Director of the Obama White House Council on Women and Girls opposing how the CPUC has gone about this request and disregarded survivor rights, advocate voices, and has curtailed corporate transparency efforts.
We hope the CPUC will listen and do the right thing.