Russian search engine giant Yandex just recently established its taxi service in Finland, but security experts have already started to discourage Finns from downloading the app, which, they claim, engages in data gathering.
In Finland, Yandex operates under the brand name Yango and cooperates with local taxi companies and drivers. The service, which resembles Uber, uses its own navigation and AI technology to keep down customer costs.
The starting price for Yango rides, which are available to order via Android or iOS apps, is three euros, then €1.20 ($1.36) per kilometre and €0.15 per minute (or €0.45 during peak hours). A ride from Helsinki Airport to the city centre would thus cost around €29 ($33).
Only days since Yango's launch in Finland, the daily newspaper Helsingin Sanomat warned its readers that the new taxi service app can access one's photos and SIM card. Helsingin Sanomat cited cyber security experts from Estonia and Lithuania, who warned against using the service due to security risks.
"We strongly advise people not to install this application, especially those who work at government agencies," analyst Rytis Rainus of the cyber security centre in Lithuania was quoted as saying.
Helsingin Sanomat also stressed that four Estonian ministries had forbidden their employees from downloading the app to their work mobiles due to possible data breaches. This summer, Yandex taxi became available in Estonia. Earlier this year, Latvia became the first EU country where Yandex taxi is available.
The Finnish Communications Regulatory Authority stressed that Yango's terms of service are essentially the same as Uber's. In one of the biggest deals in the Russian tech sector in 2017, Uber and Yandex Taxi formed a joined venture in Russia and five other CIS countries. Yandex currently holds a 59.3% stake and Uber 36.9% in the joint venture.
Yandex began its taxi service in 2011, and has since made more than one billion trips in 13 countries, mostly in former states of the Soviet Union. Yandex operates a large data centre in the municipality of Mäntsälä in southern Finland.
Yandex is the largest technology company in Russia and the largest Russian-language search engine on the internet. Yandex provides over 70 services in total and primarily serves audiences in Russia and the Commonwealth of Independent States.
At present, Yango is available in Helsinki and its suburbs. Should the experiment prove successful, Yango plans to expand to the cities of Turku and Tampere.