Uber reportedly uses a 'secret tool' to hide data from police

Gladys Abbott
January 12, 2018

Per Bloomberg, once instance occurred in Montreal in May 2015 where around 10 investigators from the provincial tax authority raided Uber's office with a warrant to search for evidence pertaining to an alleged tax violation against the company.

Staffers quickly remotely logged off every computer in the Montreal office, making it practically impossible for the authorities to retrieve the company records they'd obtained a warrant to collect.

Dubbed Ripley for Sigourney Weaver's character in the Alien movies, the program was regularly activated by the team at Uber's headquarters between early 2015 and late 2016.

According to three people worth knowledge of the system, Ripley was utilised between Spring 2015 and late 2016 to routinely prevent authorities across the world from obtaining evidence against the company. Last March, the New York Times revealed the company used secretive software called Greyball in some cities where Uber wasn't yet allowed to operate. The investigators left empty handed.

The team overseeing the software is capable of remotely changing passwords, lock up data on company-owned smartphones, laptops, desktops and well as shut down the devices at a moments notice. As it turns out, that wasn't the only program Uber was using to evade law enforcement. The secret tool, called "Ripley", has been used over two dozen times to block the legal efforts of local offers from gathering information, sources told Bloomberg.

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Uber's use of Greyball was recorded in late 2014, when an enforcement inspector in Portland, Oregon, tried to hail an Uber vehicle downtown in a sting operation against the company.b Uber quickly identified them as city officials, based on data collected from the app and in other ways. The three people with knowledge of the tool believe it was justified, however, since they claim authorities outside the U.S. didn't always come with warrants and often relied on rather broad orders.

The service was able to show them a fake app populated with "ghost" cars and cancel their rides.

Uber said it no longer uses Ripley because it wasn't effective. Think of it as a panic button and Uber is calling it "Ripley".

Uber said 'Like every company with offices around the world, we have security procedures in place to protect corporate and customer data. This all sounds fully above board and has nothing to do with obstructing justice. "When it comes to government investigations, it's our policy to cooperate with all valid searches and requests for data". We also send freebies and lots of other goodies exclusively to our email subscribers. She said Uber's guidance to employees bars use of the tool where it isn't legal.

Uber is said to have even considered a system called uLocker, which would present law enforcement officials with a dummy login screen.

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