The tactics of Uber under Travis Kalanick continues to look like some mix of ancient Rome and the Nixon administration.
Last month, a letter written by Ric Jacobs, a former member of Uber’s security team, was sent to company management. It provided detailed accounts of some of the dirtiest things a company can do: hack competitors, collect their data illegally, spy on them, and more.
A redacted version of the letter was made public yesterday (Dec. 15), as part of the case in a US district court between Uber and Waymo, a self-driving car company now owned by Alphabet. Here are just a few choice quotes:
Uber has engaged, and continues to engage, in illegal intelligence gathering on a global scale. This conduct violates multiple laws, including some that are extra-territorial in scope.
Uber’s Marketplace Analytics team…fraudulently impersonates riders and drivers on competitor platforms, hacks into competitor networks, and conducts unlawful wiretapping.
Over a two-to-three week period beginning early June 2016, [Uber operatives] coordinated multiple surveillance and collections operations against [REDACTED]. This included recording of mobile phone video and/or photography during private events in [READACTED]. To do this, multiple surveillance teams infiltrated private-event spaces at hotel and conference facilities that the group of [REDACTED] executives used during their stay. In at least one instance, the …operatives deployed against these targets were able to record and observe private conversations among these executives—including their real-time reactions to a press story that Uber would receive $3.4 billion in funding from the Saudi government. Importantly, these collection tactics were tasked directly by [former Uber security chief] Sullivan on behalf of Uber’s CEO, Travis Kalanick.
[REDACTED]. Uber’s intent in accessing this protected computer database was to lure these drivers away to work for Uber instead. As noted above, the database was protected by Captcha to prevent the sort of automated downloading that Uber’s MA team intended to carry out. MA was ultimately successful in hacking the system and obtaining the driver database.
During the course of Jacobs’s employment he observed Uber engage in targeted business practices aimed at gaining the support of government officials in foreign countries. Many of these efforts involved similar surveillance conduct to that discussed above and likely involve violations of foreign government civil and criminal laws.
Responding to the allegations, Uber’s current CEO, Dara Khosrowshahi, told staff in a letter, “we have not been able to substantiate every one of his claims, including any related to Waymo. But I will also say that there is more than enough there to merit serious concern.”
Read the whole thing for yourself here (document uploaded and highlighted by The Verge):