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Former Uber Employee Details How The Company Impersonated Protestors, Surveilled Politicians And Hacked Rival Platforms

Former Uber Employee Details How The Company Impersonated Protestors, Surveilled Politicians And Hacked Rival Platforms
Reports of a secret unit within Uber have emerged that was used by the company to poach trade secrets of rivals and carry out surveillance on them, with the help of self-destructing message to fool the government regulators.
It was earlier this year that the allegations were made in a 37 page letter written by a former employee attached to the security team at Uber, Ric Jacobs. The latter was also sent to the management at Uber. But until now, only bits and pieces of the letter content were available as they were read aloud in court.  But now, as Uber fight out Waymo, the self-driving unit of Alphabet, in court, an edited copy of the letter is available for public viewing as a part of that litigation.
And the high-profile law suit between the two tech companies has assumed greater significance by the emergence of the letter which is already being referred to as the “Jacobs letter”. This year Uber has been tormented by a series of scandals which has toppled its senior leadership and enhanced chances of criminal litigations and the incriminating contents of the letter added to thosze woes for the company.
A very detailed compilation of all of the illegal acts of the ride hailing company is enclosed in the letter. The writer alleges that Uber’s secretive Strategic Services Group (SSG) “frequently engaged in fraud and theft, and employed third-party vendors to obtain unauthorized data or information.” Uber security officers have also been accused of “hacking” and “destruction of evidence related to eavesdropping against opposition groups”, in the letter by him.
“Virtual operations impersonating protesters, Uber partner-drivers, and taxi operators”, were conducted by another Uber employee, Nicholas Gicinto, along with SSG. Jacobs says that to prevent their surveillance activities form being known to the regulatory authorities, great care was taken by the Uber security employees. Computers bought by other entities and not Uber were used and Mi-Fi devices were used to prevent appearing of traffic on the company’s network. Jacobs alleges that efforts at concealing the acts also included use of “non-attributable architecture of contracted Amazon Web Services”.
According to Jacobs the target of SSG included “politicians, regulators, law enforcement, taxi organizations, and labor unions in, at a minimum, the US.”
In the letter, Jacobs further alleges that the Marketplace Analytics team at Uber was responsible for “acquiring trade secrets, codebase, and competitive intelligence... from major ridesharing competitors globally.” Illegal wire tapping, hacking into networks of competitors and impersonation of riders and drivers on rival platforms were done by the Marketplace Analytics team, alleges Jacobs.
In order to view in real time, the actual reactions of the executives of a rival company to a new about Uber securing a $3.5 billion investment from Saudi Arabia, the surveillance team from Uber penetrated a private event space in a hotel for the spying. Jacob further alleges that incident of surveillance was directly overseen by the ex-Uber security chief Joe Sullivan and Kalanick was aware of the incident.
Jacobs testified in a hearing about the letter in Late November in San Francisco. He had been earier fired from Uber in April. 
Referring to a $4.5 million settlement that was received by Jacobs related to the claims he had made about Uber’s secrecy measures, the company described Jacob as an “extortionist.”

Christopher J. Mitchell

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