By on September 10, 2017

Uber At Igby's In Cincy Circa April 2014

Uber has undertaken a concerted effort to clean up its corporate act, but holdovers from its more aggressive era continue getting the ride-hailing firm into trouble. Currently, the Federal Bureau of Investigation is checking into Uber Technologies Inc. to see if it had used software to illegally interfere with its competition from 2014 to 2016.

The program in question, which Uber calls “Hell,” was the focus of an April lawsuit where a former Lyft driver asked for $5 million in damages. By creating dummy accounts, Hell is supposedly able to track the areas where its rivals are doing business and better-compete by adjusting pricing or offering discounts to their customers. It’s also a way to see if Uber employees are double dipping by simultaneously working for Lyft.

It’s not the first time the company has been cited for playing on the fringes of legality. In addition to a high-profile court case against Alphabet’s Waymo over trade secrets, Uber has also been accused of testing self-driving vehicles without state approval, and using its “Greyball” software to hide from police and public officials.

With Hell, things are equally murky. While obviously shady, it may not be illegal. Of course, this is dependent upon the what the FBI probe digs up. But at least one federal judge has dismissed the claims against it already — on the grounds that the information Uber was compiling and using to make business decisions was readily accessible by the general public.

In the aforementioned lawsuit with a former Lyft driver, Uber was being sued for damages for alleged unlawful invasion of privacy and interception of electronic communications and images in violation of the Federal Wiretap Act as amended by the Electronic Communications Privacy Act, the California Invasion of Privacy Act, and common law damages for invasion of privacy. But Jacqueline Scott Corley, a federal magistrate judge for the U.S. District Court of Northern California, granted Uber’s motion to dismiss the complaint with leave to amend.

She said the plaintiff had not showed sufficient proof that Uber had broken the law or intercepted confidential communications. The FBI investigation is likely following up to ensure that is the case, but it has yet to issue an official statement on the subject.

[Source: Reuters]

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12 Comments on “Uber Might Be Getting Into Hot Water Over ‘Hell’ Software...”

  • avatar

    Uber is evil, and should be destroyed.

    I don’t need these services, but I just installed Lyft just in case. I can see me choosing to make my life easier in some ways using them.

    The side benefit of using Lyft would be, I’m screwing Uber by using something that isn’t Uber.

    • 0 avatar

      Both companies are founded on the premise that regulation is an invalid concept that can be wilfully dismissed when inconvenient. Lyft may have better PR, but it’s just as devoid of ethics.

      • 0 avatar

        Frankly, I’m astounded that Amazon hasn’t gotten into the business.

        • 0 avatar

          It’s a business that is trending towards open source software doing the hailer/driver matching, and payments being settled in more-expensive-to-tax-than-worth-it digital cash equivalents.

          The current state of the market only exists because Apple and Google/Android have a temporary, easily audited, duopoly in convenient payment mediation. Which won’t last forever. Amazon could certainly jump into the fray. But the service of matching hailer and driver was a commodity even before Uber (Uber’s genius was the realization that Apple Store payments and phone borne identities could solve the long standing payment problem earlier attempts to break the Taxi monopoly had been unable to). It is not in either drivers’ nor hailers interest to subsidize a couple of commodity service providers (Uber, Lyft, Apple, Google, Amazon, Taxman…) to the tune of double digit percentages of their total spend. So, they’ll find ways to cut them out.

        • 0 avatar

          Amazon is in the business of rape and assault, but mainly through buying Whole Foods.

      • 0 avatar

        Regulation is an invalid concept. IN FREE SOCIETIES.

        On Antebellum cotton plantations and in progressive dystopias, obviously not so.

    • 0 avatar

      I’ve been screwing Uber since before Uber started, all by using this one simple trick!


  • avatar

    And some years/decades from now, those days’ Tweeter in Chief, will claim the Chinese “stole” something from “us,” since companies with operations there are able to offer better services to Americans cheaper, absent permanent shakedown by ambulance chasing less-than-nothings and their ladder climbing equivalents in the letter agencies.

    Of course Uber wants to know if it’s drivers are cherry picking rides across similar services. And equally of course, drivers want to be doing exactly that, as that is what drivers’ power to command what the market is willing to pay for their services, derives from. And, also equally of course, an equilibrium will be found where the needs and desires of drivers, ride hailers and various ride sharing services balance out.

    None of the above entities, just as noone anywhere ever, benefits from the usual army of useless, below-zero-productivity leeches, sticking their worthless, grubby fingers into a pot of value they, as always, had nothing to do with creating nor sustaining. One way or the other, the leeches will be routed around. But since they are so entrenched in this country, the healthy routing around will mainly take place by moving as much value add to less confiscatory jurisdictions as possible. Harming everyone in the US, aside from the leech army itself.

  • avatar
    Big Al From 'Murica

    Screw Uber.

  • avatar

    I used Lyft earlier this year and the service beat the living crap out of any taxi service I have used. The drive drove for both Uber and Lyft in order to make a living. I guess I can’t understand why Uber would think they could hold a driver captive, limiting their income potential. Our driver said that most of his income comes from Lyft because they take better care of their drivers. He only has Uber to cover when he can’t get a gig through Lyft. Uber is very interested in using other people to support their business model until they can go driverless. That sounds greedy and foolish.

  • avatar
    V-Strom rider

    Not sure of the situation in the US but here in Australia Uber drivers are resolutely described by Uber as “independent contractors” and definitely not “Uber employees”. If that is so then there is no way Uber has any grounds for seeking to prevent these so-called independent contractors from offering their services to other entities. Can’t have it both ways (or at least Uber shouldn’t be able to have it both ways).

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