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Uber used tech tool to shield data from police outside US

12 January 2018

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.

Uber has been accused of using several pieces of software to evade authories and collect data on rivals.

The report claims that Uber had deployed the use of a program called "Ripley", which basically locked all computers in the office to prevent the police from accessing them. The name itself was inspired by the words of Sigourney Weaver's Ellen Ripley in Aliens, specifically the line "nuke the entire site from orbit".

The idea was for Uber's team at its San Francisco headquarters to be able to shut down a device if necessary.

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In that same vein, three sources told Bloomberg that Ripley had proved useful when foreign police officers showed up without warrants or with warrants that were far from specific. It now uses an off-the-shelf software called Prey and another type of software it built called uLocker.

The investigation is focusing on an Uber program, internally known as 'Hell, ' that could track drivers working for rival service Lyft Inc, the WSJ said, citing people familiar with the investigation.

In a statement, Uber spokesperson said: "Like every company with offices around the world, we have security procedures in place to protect corporate and customer data". The company also said its policy is to cooperate with all valid searches and requests for data.

Uber has been using a secret tool known as "Ripley" to hide incriminating data from police, according to a report from Bloomberg.

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In May 2015 about 10 investigators for the Quebec tax authority burst into Uber Technologies Inc's office in Montreal. The three people with knowledge of the tool believe it was justified, however, since they claim authorities outside the United States didn't always come with warrants and often relied on rather broad orders. Using Ripley, staff in San Francisco reportedly remotely logged off all employees' computers in Montreal.

At least in one case, in May 2015 in Canada, investigators left without any evidence.

If you thought that Ripley was the only trick Uber had up its sleeve, wait till you hear about their other program called Greyball. The authorities believed Uber had violated tax laws and had a warrant to collect evidence.

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. This all sounds fully above board and has nothing to do with obstructing justice. It's also facing at least four other inquiries by the USA government.

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Uber used tech tool to shield data from police outside US