Uber Used Another Secret Software Program to Evade Police


Most companies don't expect police to raid their offices, but Uber isn't most companies.

Should law enforcement show up to raid any of its offices overseas, managers had been instructed to page a number to warn staff at Uber's San Francisco headquarters, according to a report Thursday by Bloomberg News.

Uber defended its use of Ripley, saying that the practice is common among businesses and helps it protect its information.

Called Ripley, the system allowed a remote team to lock, shut off, and change passwords on devices the company feared would be targeted by investigators in foreign countries.

The routine had the headquarters team remotely changing passwords and taking other steps to prevent outsiders from accessing data on Uber-owned smartphones, laptops, and desktops.

While legal experts say that it is normal for a company to protect its data, Uber is unique in that it often intentionally tries to circumvent local laws.

The software, named after Sigourney Weaver's character in the Alien franchise, would lock down computers to prevent the police or anyone outside the company from accessing data.

Past 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.

Per Bloomberg, once instance occurred in Montreal in May 2015 where around 10 investigators from the provincial tax authority raided Uber's office with a warrant to search for evidence pertaining to an alleged tax violation against the company.

Uber doesn't have a very good relationship with regulators, and by that I mean it seems to do everything it can to avoid letting them do any investigation into the company.

According to Bloomberg's sources, Uber's use of Ripley began in early 2015 and the program was used regularly as recently as late 2016 in cities like Amsterdam, Brussels, Hong Kong, and Paris. "When it comes to government investigations, it's our policy to cooperate with all valid searches and requests for data", Uber said in a statement.

After the Montreal raid, a judge in the subsequent tax lawsuit wrote that Uber's actions showed "all the characteristics of an attempt to obstruct justice" and that the company was trying to hide "evidence of its illegal activities".

In 2017, The New York Times released a report that described a tool, called Greyball, that the company used to prevent officials from ordering rides in cities where the service was banned or contested.

Less than a week after Greyball was exposed, Uber said it stopped using the software. The report does not claim that Uber used the system for any United States offices. It's also facing at least four other inquiries by the U.S. government.