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Uber drives past privacy issues and secures $US1.2 billion in funding

Uber drives past privacy issues and secures $US1.2 billion in funding

Recent privacy concerns are part of Uber's "growing pains," said CEO Travis Kalanick

Recent privacy concerns surrounding Uber haven't soured investors on the ride-sharing startup, which just raised $US1.2 billion from investors in its latest funding round.

In 2014, Uber launched operations in 190 cities and 29 countries, and is six times larger than it was a year ago, Uber CEO Travis Kalanick wrote in a blog post on Thursday announcing the cash injection. Uber's service, which allows customers to use an app on their smartphones to arrange a ride, is available in more than 250 cities in 50 countries.

"This progress is remarkable, but it is in the coming years that Uber truly scales and the impact in cities becomes visible. This kind of continued growth requires investment," he wrote.

Uber is looking to increase its presence in the Asia-Pacific region and will use the capital "to make substantial investments" there, Kalanick said.

The post also indirectly referenced the bad publicity the company encountered in recent weeks over its use of customer data, saying that "growing pains" have accompanied Uber's growth.

Last month, a company executive reportedly made remarks that implied Uber was considering hiring investigators to research the private lives of reporters who criticized the company.

A separate report later emerged claiming that Uber maintained a lax policy around how its employees handle ride data and allowed them to use a tool to access ride logs without obtaining user permission.

"The events of the recent weeks have shown us that we also need to invest in internal growth and change. Acknowledging mistakes and learning from them are the first steps," Kalanick said.

In the coming months Uber will revamp how it handles data, Kalanick said, without elaborating.

"Done right, it will lead to a smarter and more humble company that sets new standards in data privacy," he wrote.

In November Uber hired a law firm to help it review data use policies, especially those around rider log data. According to Kalanick's post, the company is also consulting with others that "have gone through similar challenges," although he didn't mention specific companies.

In addition to internal challenges, Uber faces obstacles from governments that are looking to regulate it. In November, Uber suspended operations in Nevada after a judge in the state issued an injunction banning it from operating there. The taxi industry has also spoken out against the company, which they see as a major threat. Meanwhile, Uber competitors Lyft and Sidecar are expanding operations.

Fred O'Connor writes about IT careers and health IT for The IDG News Service. Follow Fred on Twitter at @fredjoconnor. Fred's e-mail address is fred_o'connor@idg.com

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