Uber built secret program to evade law enforcement: report

Uber built secret program to evade law enforcement: report
© Photo Illustration/Garrett Evans

Uber developed and regularly made use of a secret program it built that locked down company devices to thwart police raids, Bloomberg Businessweek reported on Thursday.

The program, called Ripley, was reportedly used at least two dozen times by the ride-hailing company between 2015 and 2016 to keep authorities from accessing its data.

When police would raid Uber offices — which they did in cities such as Quebec, Hong Kong, Amsterdam, Brussels and Paris — select Uber employees would reportedly page the company’s San Francisco headquarters, where someone would remotely log all employees off their computers.

The program was kept secret, according to Bloomberg, and only a small amount of employees had knowledge of Ripley.

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The tool was developed by Uber’s chief security and legal officers, Joe Sullivan and Salle Yoo, respectively. Both are no longer at the company.

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

“Like every company with offices around the world, we have security procedures in place to protect corporate and customer data,” Uber said in a statement to Bloomberg. “When it comes to government investigations, it’s our policy to cooperate with all valid searches and requests for data.”

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. Uber is still banned in many cities, as was the case during the period between 2015 and 2016 when it used its Ripley program.

Ripley isn’t the only program Uber used to thwart local authorities. In 2017 The New York Times revealed a program Uber implemented called Greyball. The tool ran a fake version of Uber that wouldn’t actually let government authorities hail rides whenever they’d attempt to launch a sting operation.

Uber also defended its use of Greyball at the time, telling the Times that riders attempting stings were violating its terms of service.