Uber has made a lot of questionable decisions behind closed doors, and today, yet another one emerged. According to The Information, between 2014 and 2016, Uber used secret software called “Hell” in order to track drivers from its biggest rival, Lyft.
The report claims that Uber was able to monitor detailed information about Lyft drivers, including how many were available to pick up passengers, where they were working, and which drivers used both Uber and Lyft apps. Naturally, this kind of peeping was a potentially huge advantage for Uber when it came to luring drivers away from its rival.
The secret software would reportedly send more ride offers to drivers working for both companies, so that they’d spend more time working for Uber. When the data scraped together by “Hell” software found that more than 60 per cent of Lyft drivers were using both apps, Uber reportedly shelled out tens of millions of dollars in bonuses to reduce that number.
Only a handful of people knew about “Hell,” according to the report, including CEO Travis Kalanick, other executives, and data scientists working on Uber’s competitive intelligence team (COIN).
This is well-trodden ground for Uber. A few years back, it also reportedly utilised another controversial, secret software called “God View,” which let employees see all of the Uber drivers in a city and the silhouettes of people waiting for cars to arrive. According to a Forbes report from 2014, “God View” was used as a stalking tool during Uber’s 2011 launch party in Chicago, during which about 30 users were tracked in real-time for partygoers’ entertainment. In addition, Buzzfeed reported one of its journalists, Johana Bhuiyan, was tracked by New York executive Josh Mohrer, who used “God View” to track her without her permission.
But that’s not all! In March, the New York Times reported that Uber used secret internal software called “Greyball” and cyberstalking methods to identify law enforcement officials who were investigating Uber’s business practices. Uber reportedly used these methods to evade authorities in cities like Boston, Paris, and Las Vegas, as well as countries like Australia, China, and South Korea.
This revelation only compounds the issues faced by Uber this year along. In January, Uber was accused of undermining a taxi strike at New York City’s JFK airport in response to President Donald Trump’s immigration ban. In February, software engineer Susan Fowler published an exposé about the sexual harassment and callous treatment she faced during her year working for Uber. And a few weeks after the sexual harassment allegations, the company’s billionaire CEO Travis Kalanick was caught on tape yelling “bullshit!” at one of his own drivers who confronted him about lowering fares.
The never-ending controversies have coincided with the departures of several executives. This week, Uber’s head of communications and policy Rachel Whetstone left after two years with the company. Last month, the company’s COO Jeff Jones quit over disagreements about the company’s leadership, saying in a statement to Recode, “It is now clear, however, that the beliefs and approach to leadership that have guided my career are inconsistent with what I saw and experienced at Uber.”
We’ve reached out to Uber for comment, and we’ll update if we hear back.