Uber Might Have Been Trying To Dodge Investigations With This Tool

Tammy Harvey
January 15, 2018

Previous year the Federal Bureau of Investigation announced it is probing to see if Uber used software to illegally interfere with its competitors, the Wall Street Journal reported.

Uber also noted the tool was a common practice to remotely change passwords or lock devices in the event they were lost or stolen, according to The Guardian. According to the report, Uber managers across the globe are trained to page a number that alerts specially-trained staff at the company's headquarters in San Francisco, California. Bloomberg says this program was used roughly 24 times between 2015 and 2016. Ripley stands out because it was used regularly. It now uses an off-the-shelf software called Prey and another type of software it built called uLocker.

The company says it did have a security system in pace to protect data, but insists it cooperates with "all valid searches".

Uber has a long history of clashing with government regulators. But in the case with Ripley, the company said it was in the right.


In a statement, Uber spokesperson said: "Like every company with offices around the world, we have security procedures in place to protect corporate and customer data".

While we know that many companies tend to have a remote "panic button" to shut off computers if a police raid were to occur, Uber's secret tool is on a different level. The Quebec tax authority arrived at the ride-hailing company's local office unannounced with a warrant.

Uber said that it doesn't destroy evidence and it has let government officials walk out the door with company laptops before - it all depends if the data the authorities want is covered by legal privilege, such as correspondence between Uber and a lawyer. Following another raid in Paris the same week, Uber's then general counsel Salle Yoo instructed employees to install encryption software that logged off computers after 60 seconds of inactivity. The tool allows Uber to show enforcement officers worldwide a fake version of its application, Greyball was part of a program called VTOS, short for "violation of terms of service", which Uber created to root out people it thought were using or targeting its service improperly. Because of this, the investigators were unable to access the company records they were there for.

Uber said in an April 21 letter to the city that its own investigation indicated that Greyball was used "exceedingly sparingly" in Portland. It's basically the same software someone would use if they lost their smartphone.

Other reports by Ligue1talk

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