The Unethical and Illegal Habits of Uber


In June 2016, Uber Technologies Inc. contractors trained by the Central Intelligence Agency allegedly spied on another firm’s executives and sent live video to then-Chief Executive Travis Kalanick in the company’s “War Room.”

That summer, an Uber contractor allegedly began using hacked phones and “signal-intercept equipment” to collect data about phone calls between Uber’s opponents, politicians and regulators.

And several months later, Uber employees allegedly hacked into a rival’s systems and collected “the license, name and contact information” of all of its drivers—information allegedly delivered directly to Mr. Kalanick.

“Uber has engaged, and continues to engage, in illegal intelligence gathering on a global scale. This conduct violates multiple laws,” alleges the letter, which is centered on Mr. Jacobs’s employment at Uber from early 2016 until this past April.

Uber’s competitive-intelligence team often impersonated riders and drivers on rivals’ ride-hailing apps and hacked into their systems to understand how their apps worked, identify security gaps and obtain data on drivers to recruit, Mr. Jacobs alleges.

Some employees also allegedly pretended to be taxi drivers and other opponents of the company to infiltrate and monitor private Facebook groups and group chats on the WhatsApp messaging app. The practice was so common, a playbook for such infiltrating closed social-media groups was allegedly posted on an internal Uber network.

Uber also allegedly used human intelligence, including moles at rival firms, which the Uber team dubbed “virtual walk-ins.” The letter alleged that as of May, Uber still benefited from at least one such source with access to executives at a rival.

These words come from an article in the Wall Street Journal from writers Jack Nicus and Greg Bensinger in their article: “Uber Hacked and Surveilled Rivals, Alleges Ex-Manager in Letter.” Uber is basically an internet technology company. From Investopedia we read this:

Uber’s story began in Paris in 2008. Two friends, Travis Kalanick and Garrett Camp, were attending the LeWeb, an annual tech conference the Economist describes as “where revolutionaries gather to plot the future”. 

Rumor has it that the concept for Uber was born one winter night during the conference when the pair was unable to get a cab. Initially, the idea was for a timeshare limo service that could be ordered via an app. After the conference, the entrepreneurs went their separate ways, but when Camp returned to San Francisco, he continued to be fixated with the idea and bought the domain name

Basically it acts like a taxi cab company but uses only independent contractors who use their own vehicles to transport riders. You hire and pay for this service through an app. The company was born in controversy because it skirted all the rules and regulations placed on taxi cab companies to protect them from other services, like Uber. To get an idea how successful Uber is over, say, Yellow Cab, cab drivers in New York City make around $22,000 a year while Uber drivers make around $90,000 per year. Like most internet companies it’s starving out traditional competition.

In their fight for life, Uber leadership has often proven to be seriously unethical in their business practices. This story is just one story of their immoral habits to gain title of “King” of the mountain. Caught up in the shadiness of this company are the innocent drivers who found in Uber a way to either make extra cash or a living and those who find their services helpful.

Sadly, when a company, either a brick and mortar or internet company, wants to be “King” the temptation is to become Machiavellian in their practices, anything goes just so we win. The dilemma is, because the internet is changing so much of the way we do business, they begin in fighting our resistance to change and any time you find yourself in a “fight” mentality the temptation is to cheat to get done what you know is a good service. The end justifies the means, it seems. Well, this mentality has always gotten us into trouble. And it continually gets Uber into trouble.

What do we do with a company like Uber whose leadership culture seems deep into unethical and illegal practices?

The full test of the WSJ article can be found HERE.