Uber used tech tool to shield data from po­lice out­side U.S.

The Maui News - - TODAY’S PEOPLE -

NEW YORK (AP) — The ride-shar­ing com­pany Uber con­firmed Thursday that it had tech­nol­ogy to shield com­pany data when law en­force­ment raided its of­fices out­side the U.S.

Uber spokes­woman Me­lanie Ensign said this tool — no longer in use — could lock com­put­ers and smart­phones and change pass­words re­motely from the com­pany’s head­quar­ters in San Fran­cisco.

Bloomberg re­ported Thursday that Uber used the tool, known as Ri­p­ley, from spring 2015 un­til late 2016 in sev­eral cities, in­clud­ing Paris, Hong Kong, Brus­sels, Am­s­ter­dam and Mon­treal.

Bloomberg said some Uber em­ploy­ees felt the sys­tem hin­dered le­git­i­mate in­ves­ti­ga­tions, while some peo­ple be­lieved its use was jus­ti­fied when po­lice didn’t come with war­rants or spe­cific-enough data re­quests.

The use of this tool raises ques­tions for Uber be­cause the com­pany has in the past used a phony ver­sion of its app to thwart au­thor­i­ties. The “Grey­ball” soft­ware iden­ti­fied reg­u­la­tors who were try­ing to hail a ride in an at­tempt to col­lect ev­i­dence of lo­cal law-break­ing. Those rides would be can­celed or never ar­rive. It has also been re­ported that the Jus­tice Depart­ment was in­ves­ti­gat­ing whether Uber il­le­gally used soft­ware to track drivers of its ri­val Lyft.

Bloomberg re­ported that au­thor­i­ties in Mon­treal were seek­ing ev­i­dence in May 2015 that Uber had vi­o­lated tax laws. Uber’s use of Ri­p­ley meant they didn’t get any in­for­ma­tion, but Uber co­op­er­ated with a sec­ond search war­rant and agreed to col­lect pro­vin­cial taxes for each ride, Bloomberg said.

Ensign said the com­pany shut down Ri­p­ley in 2016 be­cause it didn’t work well.

She said Uber now has a tool called ULocker that can re­motely lock and en­crypt de­vices. Ensign could not im­me­di­ately say if Uber has used that to pro­tect data from law en­force­ment as well. But she said Uber’s guid­ance to em­ploy­ees bars use of the tool where it isn’t le­gal.

In a state­ment, Uber said this se­cu­rity tool is sim­i­lar to those used by other com­pa­nies and gives Uber a way to block ac­cess to data when an em­ployee loses a de­vice. The com­pany said its pol­icy is to co­op­er­ate with “all valid searches and re­quests for data.”

The ride-hail­ing ser­vice had a scan­dal-ridden 2017 that in­cluded law­suits, gov­ern­ment probes, the reve­la­tion of a sig­nif­i­cant sex­u­al­ha­rass­ment prob­lem and the dis­clo­sure of a cover-up of a hack that stole per­sonal in­for­ma­tion of 57 mil­lion pas­sen­gers and 600,000 drivers. The com­pany’s hard-charg­ing CEO, Travis Kalan­ick, re­signed in June and was re­placed in Au­gust by the for­mer CEO of Ex­pe­dia, Dara Khos­row­shahi.

AP photo

A pub­lished re­port says Uber used tech­nol­ogy dur­ing po­lice raids out­side the U.S. to keep com­pany in­for­ma­tion from law en­force­ment.

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