(Monday at 7:45 a.m. with comments from Uber.)
Uber and Lyft are suing the city of Seattle as part of an ongoing legal crusade to prevent public records requests from revealing their internal data.
Attorneys representing the two transportation networks and the city met in court on Wednesday for the final hearing of a case that will determine whether an Austin, Texas, man’s public records request will be granted.
The man, Jeff Kirk, filed the suit in January, asking the court to release data on Uber and Lyft rides in King County during the third and fourth quarters of 2015. The two companies filed suit in King County Superior Court to block the request as soon as they were notified.
The ride-hailing giants argue that the release of this data would make public valuable trade secrets and harm their businesses. It’s a common refrain for Uber and Lyft, who have filed many similar cases across the U.S. to keep their data private.
Uber General Manager Brooke Steger said the requested data “would be of immense value to Rasier’s competitors and potential competitors,” according to court records. Rasier is an Uber subsidiary that represents the ridesharing portion of its business.
“Uber is committed to following City regulations and has submitted all required data reports in a timely and accurate manner since the TNC regulations took effect,” said and Uber spokesperson. “Some of the data provided to the City as part of our regulatory requirements contains trade secrets that are protected under the law. The City has unnecessarily spent taxpayer dollars and ignored a mutual agreement regarding the protection of confidential information by joining this lawsuit.”
City attorneys, on the other hand, argue that lawsuits like this one prevent legislators from regulating Uber and Lyft effectively. Uber and Lyft are required to turn over ride data to the city but lawsuits claiming trade secret exemptions prevent the city from releasing that information publicly. That means lawmakers can’t cite the data in public documents or during hearings, which are crucial to enacting regulations due to Washington’s robust public record laws.
If, for example, officials discovered Uber was doing something unlawful and wanted to legislate against it, a gag order like the one the companies are pursuing would make it difficult. The city would not be able to use the data in documents supporting its position or present it to the public during open meetings.
“At the end of the day the city is committed to transparency and, under state law, the public has a right to know why the city makes the decisions it makes,”said Assistant City Attorney Michael Ryan via phone this morning.
Lyft and Uber’s suits were consolidated into one trial that lasted four days. A ruling on the case is expected in mid- to late-November.