A massive data leak to the British newspaper The Guardian revealed the shadowy means used by ride-hailing giant Uber in its massive worldwide expansion.
The leak, which spans well over a hundred thousand documents from 2013 to 2017, uncovers evidence of political lobbying and police evasion, with multiple inner-company communications disclosing high-level awareness of the dubious legalities of Uber’s methods.
It was revealed that Uber heads met with multiple world leaders and engaged in ethically questionable lobbying, offering stakes in the company in exchange for pushing regulations that benefited the ride-hailing app. Whatsapp messages between French President Emmanuel Macron, who was economy minister at the time, and Uber founder Travis Kalinick show that the politician went to “extraordinary lengths” to facilitate the app’s growth and brokered secretive deals in its favor.
Other information suggests the company’s offices operated a kill-switch system to prevent police from accessing confidential data during raids. Communications show Uber executives joking about how “illegal” the company is and that they had become “pirates.” Kalanick also seemingly condoned letting its drivers operate near a protest against the company, stating that if violence occurred, it would help them in the long run.
The breadth of the data is still being analyzed, and the company claims that it shifted its methods after Kalnick stepped down in 2017. It also denies that Kalanick promoted violence against its drivers and that the messages were misconstrued.