Uber has used tool to evade police during foreign raids

An Uber auto drives through LaGuardia Airport in NY on March 15, 2017.

Like managers at Uber's hundreds of offices overseas, they'd been trained to page a number that alerted specially trained staff at company headquarters in San Francisco.

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. But the company maintains with regards to Ripley, it was in the right. The tool was named in honor of Sigourney Weaver's character in the "Alien" movies. "That's the only unusual thing here to me", he said, pointing out that most companies will use very common end-point management software.

In one case Ripley was deployed to prevent Canadian tax investigators, who believed Uber had violated tax laws, from collecting evidence even though they had a warrant. Uber quickly discontinued the practice after its existence was by The New York Times.

Separately, Uber is under investigation for its "greyball" software, which was reportedly used to thwart government regulators. And Waymo, Google's self-driving auto company, has sued Uber claiming that its self-driving vehicle technology is based on trade secrets effectively stolen during Uber's purchase of Otto, a self-driving truck company started by former Google employee Anthony Levandowski.

Albert Gidari, director of privacy at Stanford Law School's Center for Internet & Society added that companies often protect networks and computers against dawn raids where the scope of authority is in question and the data to be seized is in another jurisdiction.

The company's hard-charging co-founder and CEO, Travis Kalanick, resigned in June after former engineer Susan Fowler's early-2017 blog post revealed a corporate culture that was toxic to women. Dara Khosrowshahi has, at times, seemed less like management than mopping exercise.

Uber says this tool - no longer in use - could lock computers and smartphones and change passwords remotely from the company's headquarters in San Francisco.

Uber is serious about "security" in it offices.when it comes to evidence.and hiding that from the police.that show up with search warrants.

Think of it as a panic button and Uber is calling it "Ripley".

Less than a week after Greyball was exposed, Uber said it stopped using the software.

Uber is reported to have used remote shutdowns of computers to thwart police raids.

  • Wendy Palmer