Uber used yet another secret tool to evade law enforcement

Chelsea West
January 15, 2018

Ensign said security tools such as ULocker is similar to those used by other companies and gives Uber a way to block access to data when an employee loses a device.

Between spring 2015 and late 2016, Bloomberg says Uber repeatedly used Ripley to avoid police raids in foreign cities such as Amsterdam, Brussels, Hong Kong and Paris.

Some Uber employees felt the system hindered legitimate investigations, while others believed its use was justified when police didn't come with warrants or specific-enough data requests, according to Bloomberg, which first on Ripley Thursday. The call would result in a team in San Francisco remotely shutting down computers in the office under investigation making it hard if not impossible for law enforcement to retrieve the desired records.

"Like every company with offices around the world, we have security procedures in place to protect corporate and customer data", said an Uber spokeswoman.

Dubbed Ripley for Sigourney Weaver's character in the Alien movies, the program was regularly activated by the team at Uber's headquarters between early 2015 and late 2016.

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We understand why Uber has to be extra careful with their data, considering that they access to the private data of millions of people across the world. "When it comes to government investigations, it's our policy to cooperate with all valid searches and requests for data", Uber said in a statement.

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. But the company maintains with regards to Ripley, it was in the right.

A year after the incident, the judge in the Quebec tax authority's lawsuit against Uber wrote that "Uber wanted to shield evidence of its illegal activities". Uber is no stranger to such techniques, and have been found to remotely shutdown computers to thwart police raids.

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. 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. Last March, the New York Times revealed the company used secretive software called Greyball in some cities where Uber wasn't yet allowed to operate.

Less than a week after Greyball was exposed, Uber said it stopped using the software.

Other reports by TheSundaySentinel

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