State Council, Parliament at loggerheads over Uber users’ data

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Mon, 02 Apr 2018 - 09:31 GMT

Uber and Careem: The two major ride-hailing services in Egypt - Egypt Today

Uber and Careem: The two major ride-hailing services in Egypt - Egypt Today

CAIRO – 2 April 2018: An article of the draft law aiming to regulate land transport services using information technology for passengers sparked controversy between the State Council and parliamentarians.

Article 9 stipulates that user data of Egypt’s two largest ride-hailing applications, Uber and Careem, be linked to state bodies, although the exact bodies were not stated.
The State Council stated that this article contradicts the Egyptian constitution; the data could be used to monitor citizens and track any ride across a giant digital map without prior legal permission. This represents a breach to users’ privacy and raises questions on the law’s constitutionality.

The State Council noted that the goal is to reach a law that takes into account the interests of all parties.

Article 57 of the Egyptian constitution protects the right to privacy and states, “postal, telegraphic and electronic correspondences, telephone calls, and other means of communication are inviolable, and their confidentiality is guaranteed. They may not be confiscated, revealed or monitored except by virtue of a reasoned judicial order, for a definite period, and only in the cases defined by law.”

Parliament responded to the suspicions of the State Council, stating that linking user data to state bodies is not considered a disclosure of a citizen’s privacy as the users know that the company is tracking movements and agree on that beforehand.

Ahmed el-Khashab, a member of the Transport and Communications Commission of the Egyptian Parliament, told Egypt Today, “Uber and Careem work on Egyptian land, and, thus, they should provide the data of their users.”

This will not stop the draft law from being issued, and the two companies will agree on the law with all its articles at the end, el-Khashab said.

Another member of the Transport and Communications Commission, Samed Abdel Menaam, said the government should have a data base of all Uber and Careem users to legalize their state. “The same applies to all other transportation services; why do they fear it?” he added.

Chairman of the Transport and Communications Commission Hesham Abdel Wahed said, “how do we secure foreign companies (Uber and Careem) on our information and not trust the state on them?”

Meanwhile, Mohamed Mohsen, an Uber driver told Egypt Today, “it’s not the right of the government to take my data without [prior] approval. I don’t think the managers of the company would accept this law.”

Members of the Commissions of Transport and Communications, National Security, Economic Affairs, and Communications at the House of Representatives approved on Saturday the draft law’s principles.

The draft law, which comes in 20 articles, stipulates the rules, conditions and procedures necessary for licensing companies to operate in Egypt. The law determines that the fees of licensing a car should not exceed LE 1,000 per year.

The draft law gives ride-hailing apps Uber and Careem six months at most to legalize their situation.

According to the draft law, the authorized transport vehicles working with these companies shall pay 25% more than their previous taxes and duties. The law also obligates the Ministry of Transportation to license all companies that operate this service for five years for the same period after paying their fees.

The Ministry of Transport shall specify the number of operating licenses in light of the number of vehicles working with the company up to a maximum of LE 10 million. The Ministry of Transport shall also specify the standard of vehicles operating according to the state’s transport system.

The Ministry of Interior Affairs shall issue an order to specify the shape, color and place of the "mark" on each vehicle, a distinctive logo placed throughout the period of operation.

It obligates GPS-based applications to conduct an electronic link between their databases and information with the competent authorities, based on a decision by the Minister of Transport. It also obliges companies to protect the databases of clients in accordance with instructions and regulations issued by the Minister of Communications.

The Egyptian Cabinet sent the draft law to the House of Representatives on Mar. 21 to be officially approved and ratified, hours after the Cairo Administrative Court ordered the suspension of the two companies’ licenses in Egypt.

According to Thursday statements by Ashraf Sultan, the Egyptian Cabinet’s official spokesman, the government has taken serious steps to regulate the operation of ride-hailing services before the recent controversial lawsuit demanding that the service be banned in the country.

In 2016, Uber said 30,000 drivers are using the service in Cairo as a source of income; the number of drivers who have joined the service has grown 73 times in one year, making Cairo the fastest-growing market for the company the Middle East and Africa, growing faster even than any other European country.

Uber started operating in Cairo and Giza in November 2014 and began in Alexandria year later.

Careem said on Tuesday that it has not received any requests to stop operations in Egypt, affirming it will continue to operate normally.

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