Uber used stealth technology to thwart government probe: Report

Uber also recruited a battalion of former public officials, including many former aides to President Barack Obama. They appealed to public officials to drop probes, change policies on workers' rights, draft new taxi laws and relax background checks on drivers.

Washington: A set of leaked documents has shown Uber’s use of stealth technology to thwart government probes and a so-called kill switch to cut access to company servers and prevent authorities from seizing evidence during raids on Uber offices.

The records, the Uber Files, were obtained by The Guardian newspaper and shared with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) and 42 other media partners.

A global investigation into a trove of 124,000 confidential documents from the tech company includes emails, text messages, company presentations and other documents from 2013 to 2017, when Uber was barging into cities in defiance of local laws and regulations, dodging taxes and seeking to grind into submission the taxi industry, most prominently, but also labour activists.

MS Education Academy

According to ICIJ, some Uber executives sought to spin violence to their advantage. They discussed leaking details of a near-fatal stabbing and other brutal attacks to the media hoping to draw negative attention to the taxi industry, the communications show.

The report said Uber executives also sought to deflect inquiries about the company’s aggressive tax avoidance strategies by volunteering to help host countries collect income taxes owed by drivers, documents show.

“Uber rapidly expanded to offer its services in more than 80 countries and territories by the height of its international operations in 2017, but has pulled out of numerous major markets, including China, Indonesia, the Philippines, Singapore, Hungary and Russia, due to commercial, legal and political challenges,” said International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ), a global network of investigative journalists and media organisations.

“The Uber Files project reveals how ride-hailing juggernaut Uber stormed into markets around the world, how it used stealth technology and evasive practices to thwart regulators and law enforcement in at least six countries and how it deployed a phalanx of lobbyists to court prominent world leaders to influence legislation and help it avoid taxes,” it added.

Uber also recruited a battalion of former public officials, including many former aides to President Barack Obama. They appealed to public officials to drop probes, change policies on workers’ rights, draft new taxi laws and relax background checks on drivers.

Records show that Uber executives met with France’s Macron, then-Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, then-Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny and then-Estonia President Toomas Hendrik Ilves, among other world leaders.

In all, the new records reveal more than 100 meetings between Uber executives and public officials from 2014 to 2016, including 12 with representatives of the European Commission that haven’t been publicly disclosed.

Jill Hazelbaker, a spokeswoman for Uber, acknowledged “mistakes” and “missteps” that culminated five years ago in “one of the most infamous reckonings in the history of corporate America.”

She said Uber completely changed how it operates in 2017 after facing high-profile lawsuits and government investigations that led to the ouster of Kalanick and other senior executives.

“When we say Uber is a different company today, we mean it literally: 90 per cent of current Uber employees joined after Dara [Khosrowshahi] became CEO” in 2017, Hazelbaker said in a written statement. “We have not and will not make excuses for past behaviour that is clearly not in line with our present values.”

Hazelbaker said that Uber has not used a kill switch to thwart regulatory actions since 2017 and that Uber complies with all tax laws. She added: “No one at Uber has ever been happy about violence against a driver.”

Back to top button