The use of this tool raises questions for Uber simply because there is now a growing list of eyebrow-raising technological tactics the company has employed during its meteoric rise from Bay Area phenomenon to global powerhouse over the past nine years.
Bloomberg notes that Uber isn't the only company to remotely lock up computer systems when the police turn up, but most companies will unlock them after reviewing the warrants and ensuring everything is in order. It allowed a remote team to lock, shut off, and change passwords on devices the company feared would be targeted by investigators in foreign countries. The tool is christened "Ripley", inspired by the trigger-happy, flamethrower-wielding character from the Aliens movie franchise.
Ripley isn't the only program Uber used to thwart local authorities.
The authorities believed Uber had violated tax laws and obtained a warrant to collect evidence.
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. One type of software the company devised and reportedly used from Spring 2015 to late 2016 was called Ripley, according to a report by Bloomberg.
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That, however, did nothing to assuage the anger of the consumers here who have taken H&M to task before over perceived racism . Responding to a customer inquiry H&M South Africa said the offending product "was not available in South Africa".
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When we asked Uber for comment, a spokesperson replied with the company's official statement: "Like every company with offices around the world, we have security procedures in place to protect corporate and customer data".
'When it comes to government investigations, it's our policy to cooperate with all valid searches and requests for data. 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.
The company said it removed all Greyball tags in Portland back in April 2015 and has not used them since. Following another raid in Paris the same week, Uber's then general counsel Salle Yoo instructed employees to install encryption software that logged off computers after 60 seconds of inactivity.
Uber said in an April 21 letter to the city that its own investigation indicated that Greyball was used "exceedingly sparingly" in Portland.
"For instance, if an employee loses their laptop, we have the ability to remotely log them out of Uber's systems to prevent someone else from accessing private user data through that laptop", the Uber spokeswoman said.