Report: Uber tried to undercut competition by spying on other drivers

Uber tried to undercut competition by using secret software to track other drivers in Australia and poach them for its own service, report claims

  • Uber is in hot water again for using secret software to undercut competition 
  • ‘Surfcam’ helped Uber to identify and poach drivers of ride sharing app GoCatch
  • The company has worked to reclaim its image before it goes public this year 
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According to a report from the Australian Broadcasting Company, the ride sharing company Uber is once again coming under scrutiny for deploying software that helped the international ride-sharer stifle competition. 

In the report, an anonymous senior source at Uber confirmed that in 2015 the company developed and used software called ‘Surfcam,’ which allowed it to glean information on the names, location, and registrations of competing drivers.

The firm reportedly used the data to poach employees and undermine other ride sharing businesses. 

The target of Uber’s Surfcam software, says the report, was fellow ride sharing company GoCatch, a major competitor to Uber upon entering Australia’s market in 2014.  


Uber has contended with multiple controversies throughout the past several years relating to its software but also to its company culture and safety.

While Surfcam’s existence was first reported by Bloomberg in 2017, when Uber was revealed to have been using the software to similar effect in Singapore, the most recent report from ABC is the first-ever account that it had been deployed in Australia. 

In recent years, Uber has contended with a number of national scandals, several of which have centered on the use of similar technologies that it deployed to help bolster its business and sabotage both regulators and competitors. 

Among the most infamous pieces of technology is a software dubbed ‘Greyball’ that the company developed to disguise the Uber drivers from regulators and law enforcement that attempted to crack down on ride sharing which in some localities had been outlawed. 

The software worked by first identifying would-be law enforcement officials who were attempting lure drivers into a sting and then either denying them service or presenting a map that contained ‘ghost cars’ which were not actually in service. 

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In 2017 the U.S. Department of Justice expanded an inquiry into Uber’s use of Greyball, widening its scope to the software’s deployment in Philadelphia as well as Portland, Boston, and Las Vegas. 

Other instances of Uber employing controversial software include the ‘God View’ scandal in 2014 which revealed that members of the company could track specific users’ data, including location and usage, without their consent. 

The company has worked tirelessly to reclaim its public image in recent times as it prepares — in tandem with major ride sharing competitor Lyft — to go public in the coming year. 

Neither GoCatch nor Uber responded to requests for comment before press time. 

ARE RIDE-HAILING APPS SPYING ON YOUR PRIVATE DATA? 

Lyft is the latest ride-sharing app to face intense scrutiny surrounding abuse of customer data 

A complaint was filed on an anonymous workplace chat app, Blind, that alleged staffers are spying on customer data


Both Uber and Lyft have been called into question over whether their staffers spy on customer information like trip data

The employees may have been looking at trip information for Mark Zuckerberg, ex-girlfriends, porn stars and high-profile actresses 

In the post, the anonymous tipster said they’ve witnessed staffers spying on customer data ‘for far too long’

‘I can’t stand to watch this any longer and this post is made in the hope that this will shame people into taking corrective action,’ the post said 

Lyft said it will investigate the claims as it looks to preserve consumer trust

Rival ride-hailing firm Uber has also come under fire for surveilling user data

In 2014, it was discovered that Uber used a secretive tool called ‘God view’ 

‘God view’ would let employees spy on customer data from politicians, ex-girlfriends and celebrities

Uber must now comply with privacy audits for the next 19 years


Pictured, a screenshot of Uber’s ‘God view’ tool that it used to spy on drivers and riders. A 2014 report alleged that the company used it to look at trip data from politicians, exes and actresses

 

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