Popular ride-sharing app Uber is blaming a software glitch for the panic and confusion caused earlier this month when thousands of their drivers were sent someone else's tax information.
Several news outlets took notice in early February — the heart of tax prep season — when countless independent Uber drivers started posting to various social media and online forums asking the company why, when they went to download their 1099 tax forms off Uber's Partners site, they were presented with someone else's form.
Aside from the frustration and inconvenience, the problem also caused fear and panic as, naturally, the drivers wondered if in turn, their tax form had been sent to some other stranger, somewhere around the country.
The IRS' 1099 tax form, given to independent contractors so they can report their annual earnings on their tax returns, contains loads of sensitive and personally-identifiable information.
In this case, it is estimated that at least 20,000 of Uber's independent drivers from all corners of the U.S. were all given the 1099 form for a woman in Florida, which not only includes financial reports of how much money the woman made driving for Uber in 2015, but also her full name and address, and even her Social Security Number.
Furthermore, Gizmodo reports that the drivers were left for some time, wondering how to call Uber's attention to the mix-up, and how to get it fixed.
"As you know, these forms include name, address, earnings and [Social Security number]. Uber drivers are now going to have a big chance of identity theft," one Pittsburgh man posted in an independent online forum for Uber drivers. "I emailed support and we will now see what happens."
An Uber representative told Gizmodo that a software glitch within the Partners portal itself was to blame for the wrong 1099 form being uploaded to many drivers' profiles.
"Due to a bug in our system, one partner's 1099 information was viewable by other drivers for a short period of time," the company official told Gizmodo. "The bug has been fixed and we're deeply sorry."
As soon as Uber learned of the bug, the tax form was reportedly removed from the site before anyone else could view it.
Uber has not said what, if any, action the company is taking to help the Florida woman whose private tax information was viewed by countless other Uber drivers, other than to say they had gotten "in touch" with her.
Frighteningly, this is the third breach Uber has had to deal with in less than a year.
Just a few months ago in October, Uber accidentally allowed access to the driver's licenses and tax information of countless drivers through the same Partner portal, amounting to roughly 179 pages of sensitive documents, The Next Web reports.
Just seven months before that, in March of 2015, Uber accidentally published the encryption key to its database of drivers on a public GitHub page.
Access to the IP address for nearly everyone who had visited the Uber web page, along with the personal information for more than 50,000 of its drivers, was temporarily wide open, Ars Technica reported.
The database files accessible with the encryption key included names and driver's license numbers, among other details.