Uber used yet another secret tool to evade law enforcement

Uber used yet another secret tool to evade law enforcement

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

As Uber has expanded - opening offices in 78 countries worldwide - sometimes local authorities have raided its offices. Facing accusations of operating without proper licenses, police were able to access the company's payments system, financial documents and driver and employee information. It's happened in Paris, Hong Kong, Montreal and other countries. Bloomberg says this program was used roughly 24 times between 2015 and 2016. Employees named the program Ripley, after the heroine Ellen Ripley in the Alien movies.

Ripley: This allowed the Uber HQ team to remotely change passwords and otherwise lock up data on company-owned smartphones, laptops, and desktops as well as shut down the devices'.

Now, a Bloomberg report alleges that the company had a system it used to disrupt government investigations. It now uses an off-the-shelf software called Prey and another type of software it built called uLocker. But as he works to rebrand Uber in the eyes of the public and set the company back on track, he continues to uncover new messes that Kalanick left behind, including regulatory threats to Uber's business overseas, and a major data breach made worse by former employees' efforts to hide it.

We have talked before about this particularly Uber form of regulatory entrepreneurship. However, what is out of the ordinary in this case it how frequently Ripley has been employed.

Like every company with offices around the world, we have security procedures in place to protect corporate and customer data. "When it comes to government investigations, it's our policy to cooperate with all valid searches and requests for data".


Albert Gidari, director of privacy at Stanford Law School's Center for Internet & Society added that companies often protect networks and computers against dawn raids where the scope of authority is in question and the data to be seized is in another jurisdiction.

'Managers on-site knew what to do, say people with knowledge of the event.' Bloomberg says.

The ability to lock down devices wasn't limited to computers, according to the report. The investigators left without any evidence. The report does not claim that Uber used the system for any United States offices.

If the authorities begin an investigation, Uber has a list of "do's" and "don'ts" employees should follow. They used a few methods to do this: One was to draw a digital perimeter ("geofence") around authorities' offices and monitored which nearby account users kept opening and closing the app, which could indicate a city agency worker checking the app for enforcement purposes.

Sigourney Weaver as Warrant Officer Ripley in the hit film Alien 3 - the inspiration for Uber's latest software tool. Because of this, the investigators were unable to access the company records they were there for.

Uber is now under investigation by the US Department of Justice for its use of Greyball. We also send freebies and lots of other goodies exclusively to our email subscribers. It's basically the same software someone would use if they lost their smartphone.

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