June 1, 2020 / 5:06 PM / a month ago

REFILE-Ride-hailing service Wheely risks Moscow ban in dispute over geolocation data

(Refiles June 1 story to make clear throughout that Wheely provides ride-hailing services)

By Nadezhda Tsydenova and Gleb Stolyarov

MOSCOW, June 1 (Reuters) - London-based ride-hailing service Wheely risks being banned in Moscow after it said it refuses to share vehicle geolocation data with the authorities, citing passenger privacy rights.

Popular among wealthy Muscovites, Wheely - which also operates in London and Paris - suspended its operations in the Russian capital in April after the mayor’s office banned premium transport services under measures to curb the coronavirus.

With Moscow now easing those measures, Wheely was given permission to resume its services, provided it complied with a new requirement issued by the mayor on May 21 that ride-hailing firms must share geolocation data for health and safety reasons.

Wheely said on Monday that it refused to do so, on the grounds that providing the Moscow transport department with its drivers’ real-time geolocation data would give the authorities the opportunity to monitor passengers.

“Fulfilling such demands means violating federal legislation about the protection of personal data,” Wheely said in a statement.

Regular taxis have transferred geolocation data to the authorities’ data system since 2017, but the regulation did not apply to ride-hailing services until the mayor’s decree last month.

All other major ride-hailing providers have met the requirement, including Yandex, Citymobil and Gett, the transport department said.

The Moscow prosecutor’s office issued a statement last week saying that Wheely was obliged to comply with the mayor’s decree. Wheely said it had filed a complaint with authorities in response to the ruling.

“If the (Wheely) service does not fulfil the prosecutor’s requirement, its activities will be suspended,” the department of transport said in a statement to Reuters.

The transport department said it uses the data to analyse traffic in the city and improve infrastructure.

“Taxi passenger information is not requested or transmitted - neither now, nor before,” a spokesperson said. (Reporting by Nadezhda Tsydenova and Gleb Stolyarov; Writing by Alexander Marrow; Editing by Susan Fenton)

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