Uber uses 'panic button' to shield files during police raids

Uber uses 'panic button' to shield files during police raids

The program was reportedly used at least two dozen times in cities such as Quebec, Hong Kong, Amsterdam, Brussels, and Paris during police raids of Uber offices.

Now, as Bloomberg reports, Khosrowshahi must dodge the fallout from the news that Uber regularly employed a secret program to shut down its computer systems and evade authorities in the event of a police raid.

The nickname for the tool, meanwhile, is said to be inspired by a quote from Ellen Ripley, the heroine played by Sigourney Weaver in the Alien film franchise.

Company spokeswoman Melanie Ensign confirmed that the tool existed, but said it was no longer in use.

For example, Uber's "Greyball" software identified regulators who were trying to hail a ride in an attempt to collect evidence of local law-breaking.

The service was able to show them a fake app populated with "ghost" cars and cancel their rides. 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. Dara Khosrowshahi has, at times, seemed less like management than mopping exercise.

Should law enforcement show up to raid any of its offices overseas, managers had been instructed to page a number to warn staff at Uber's San Francisco headquarters, according to a report Thursday by Bloomberg News. Uber granted access to the relevant files once issued with a second, more specific search warrant. According to Uber the software is necessary to protect company data, along with the privacy of passengers, drivers and Uber employees.

"Like every company with offices around the world, we have security procedures in place to protect corporate and customer data", Uber said in a statement.

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

Despite the report that it had a special hotline set up specifically to prevent law enforcement from gaining access to data it had a warrant for, Uber insists that it has no issue with participating in government investigations. Apparently paging that number goes straight to specially trained staff who can remotely lock computer systems in Uber's offices across the world. The company also said its policy is to cooperate with all valid searches and requests for data.

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