Uber’s com­peti­tor track­ing plan un­der scru­tiny

The East African - - OUTLOOK - By CHRIS­TIAN BERTHELSEN Bloomberg

UBER TECH­NOLO­GIES Inc is un­der in­ves­ti­ga­tion by fed­eral author­i­ties in New York for its al­leged use of a spy­ware pro­gram de­signed to un­der­mine com­pe­ti­tion for its dig­i­tal ride-hail­ing ser­vice, ac­cord­ing to peo­ple fa­mil­iar with the mat­ter.

In an­other front to mount­ing le­gal pres­sure on the com­pany, fed­eral prose­cu­tors and FBI agents in Man­hat­tan have been in­ves­ti­gat­ing a pro­gram nick­named “Hell” at Uber that al­legedly al­lowed the com­pany to spy on driv­ers from com­pet­ing ser­vice Lyft Inc.

The pro­gram was sup­posed to iden­tify driv­ers who worked for both com­pa­nies and tar­geted them with cash in­cen­tives to shift their al­le­giance to Uber. The pro­gram was al­legedly used from 2014 to 2016, the peo­ple said.

US author­i­ties are al­ready in­ves­ti­gat­ing the com­pany on two other fronts: an­other pro­gram nick­named “Grey­ball” that was al­legedly used to de­ceive reg­u­la­tors about its op­er­a­tions; and pos­si­ble vi­o­la­tions of the For­eign Cor­rupt Prac­tices Act, which bans pay­ments of bribes to for­eign of­fi­cials.

Class-ac­tion law­suit

The Grey­ball in­ves­ti­ga­tion is be­ing over­seen by fed­eral prose­cu­tors in San Fran­cisco, while the for­eign pay­ment case is be­ing han­dled out of Jus­tice Depart­ment in Wash­ing­ton D.C.

Matt Kall­man, a spokesman for Uber, said the com­pany is co-op­er­at­ing with the in­ves­ti­ga­tion, and the Hell pro­gram is no longer be­ing used. Rep­re­sen­ta­tives for the FBI and Act­ing US At­tor­ney Joon Kim in Man­hat­tan de­clined to com­ment on the probe.

Lyft driv­ers filed a class-ac­tion law­suit against Uber over the Hell pro­gram in San Fran­cisco fed­eral court in April. A judge granted Uber’s re­quest to dis­miss the case last month, but al­lowed it to be re­vised and re­filed. News of the New York in­ves­ti­ga­tion into Uber’s prac­tices was re­ported earlier by The Wall Street Jour­nal.

Closely-held Uber has been be­set by le­gal and reg­u­la­tory scru­tiny across a range of its prac­tices, contributing to the pres­sure that ul­ti­mately re­sulted in the resignation of co­founder and for­mer Chief Ex­ec­u­tive Of­fi­cer Travis Kalan­ick in June.

Ma­jor early-stage in­vestors in Uber re­belled against Mr Kalan­ick’s lead­er­ship after a string of con­tro­ver­sies, in­clud­ing its treat­ment of fe­male em­ploy­ees and driv­ers.

Pic­ture: File

Uber driv­ers protest in Nairobi over a sep­a­rate mat­ter.

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