Published: Sun, December 17, 2017
Markets | By Noel Gibbs

Uber used ex-CIA agents to spy on rivals, California court told

Uber used ex-CIA agents to spy on rivals, California court told

The letter also alleges Uber regularly broke California law by making unauthorized recordings of phone conversations, including at least one involving a sexual harassment complaint made a former employee.

The company "used undercover agents to collect intelligence against the taxi groups and local political figures".

While some details concerning the so-called "Jacobs letter" emerged in earlier court proceedings, the 37-page copy unsealed Friday by U.S. District Judge William Alsup offers the best insight yet into the former security specialist's allegations against Uber.

A letter from a former Uber employee revealed new facts in the Waymo vs. Uber legal battle.

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Pic: Reuters (The letter emerged during Uber's legal battle with Waymo) Uber set up a covert unit tasked with stealing competitors' secrets and engaging in undercover surveillance, a letter published by a United States court on Friday has alleged. Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi, who was hired in August after months of scandals, wrote to staff last month that there was "more than enough there [in the letter] to merit serious concern".

Still, the letter paints a picture of Uber's other competitive tactics, which Mr Jacobs said were carried out with Mr Kalanick's knowledge. Tony West, who became Uber's chief legal officer last month, recently sent an email to Uber's security team condemning a surveillance program that he said had been stopped.

In a statement, Uber said: "While we haven't substantiated all the claims in this letter - and, importantly, any related to Waymo - our new leadership has made clear that going forward we will compete honestly and fairly, on the strength of our ideas and technology". But Jacobs alleges Uber went far beyond typical corporate intelligence gathering by using covert, militaristic-style tactics and engaging in criminal activity.

Jacobs, who was sacked from Uber in April, has charged in the letter that his termination came in retaliation for his refusal to participate in what he viewed as unethical and illegal activities.

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Known as the ThreatOps team, the group of security workers "remotely accessed confidential" data, "impersonated riders and drivers" to explore the other platforms' "key functions", "stole supply data" in order "to boost Uber's market position", and obtained code to decipher how the rival apps function, reports Business Insider. The practice was so common, a playbook for such infiltrating closed social-media groups was allegedly posted on an internal Uber network.

In one particularly freakish example, Mr Jacobs alleged that an Uber "surveillance team" was deployed to a hotel in order to record and observe conversations between executives at a rival company - the name of which has been redacted from the version of the letter made public.

For instance, Jacobs alleged that Uber's espionage team spied on the executives of its overseas rivals.

Jacobs claimed Uber used such data to increase its valuation with investors, though it is unclear how he would know that. Uber was valued by investors at $68 billion past year.

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