Uber Reportedly Had System to Stymie Police Raids

The Recorder

According to Bloomberg, the San Francisco-based company has a secret tool to keep cops from accessing data on their computers.

"Employees aware of its existence eventually took to calling it Ripley, after Sigourney Weaver's flamethrower-wielding hero in the Alien movies".

The use of this tool raises questions for Uber because the company has in the past used a phony version of its app to thwart authorities attempting to collect evidence of local law-breaking.

The routine had the headquarters team remotely changing passwords and taking other steps to prevent outsiders from accessing data on Uber-owned smartphones, laptops, and desktops.

SAN FRANCISCO - Uber confirmed Thursday that it once used technology to shield data from law enforcement during unexpected raids of its offices outside the USA, another example of the company using questionable tactics in its pursuit of market share.

Bloomberg: Uber used remote tool to shut off devices during police raids
Uber Used Another Secret Software Program to Evade Police

Uber's use of Greyball was recorded on video in late 2014, when Erich England, a code enforcement inspector in Portland, Ore., tried to hail an Uber auto downtown as part of a sting operation against the company. Apparently paging that number goes straight to specially trained staff who can remotely lock computer systems in Uber's offices across the world. The investigators were said to have left empty handed.

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. "It's the only way to be sure".

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. She then suggested some sort of app that could counter those raids, and thus Ripley was born.

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. Managers on-site knew what to do, say people with knowledge of the event.

In response to the article, Uber released a statement to Bloomberg that reads, "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.

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