Does Uber Owe Millions for Causing a Divorce?

Digital Spying During Divorce

Sometimes you see a bizarre story and realize beneath the surface it has much to teach as a warning for unsuspecting spouses. This story from France is one.

A French businessman is suing Uber for $48 million dollars, claiming that their app allowed his wife to spy on him without his knowledge. Apparently, the man used his wife’s cellphone to order Uber rides, and then signed out of the app. However, the wife’s phone continued to receive his Uber notifications even though he signed out. The wife received a variety of notifications that allowed her to conclude he was lying about his whereabouts. It seems that a software glitch caused this particular problem, one that Uber has since remedied.

Could this case possibly succeed in America?

The husband claims the app did not work as advertised, so it would fall into the category of design defects in product liability law. Assuming he successfully showed that the defect was a flaw and foreseeable, the damages are questionable because they are privacy invasions that border on the illicit. More importantly, the husband could not sue for the divorce itself because Missouri and nearly every other state has abandoned the “alienation of affections” tort that allowed a spouse to sue a third party for causing the end of a marriage.

While this case may be a non-starter financially, it teaches a very important lesson: cell phones today, and most new automobiles, have built-in GPS indicators, and some software built into the phone or car could allow the movements to be tracked. For example, the iPhone has a Find My iPhone feature that uses GPS to locate any phone registered to the number. So if a husband and wife share an account, one spouse could know the location of the other spouse at all times. You could also install similar apps used for tracking children on these phones as well. And some new cars have apps that allow you to locate your car if you are not in it. All these features have great convenience, but they could prove to be a horrible invasion of privacy if you are doing something you do not want your spouse to know you are doing.

If you want to cheat and not get caught, it would seem that (a) do not use your wife’s phone to make Uber appointments, and (b) limit who can track your phone’s location.

As an aside, tech savvy people can track GPS signals. The courts have not reached a consensus on whether you have a privacy right in your GPS location, especially if you are traveling in public. But we can certainly imagine a lawsuit similar to the French husband happening in our country based on GPS tracking.

As we have mentioned before in other posts, technology and social media drastically limit your privacy and can haunt you in a divorce case, and you should consider that reality before and during a divorce.

If you have questions about technology, privacy and divorce, contact us – we can help.