A new collection of leaked documents has cast an unfavorable light on Uber’s early days. Called the Uber filesThe leak consists of approximately 124,000 internal company documents, including more than 83,000 emails and text messages exchanged between former CEO Travis Kalanick and other executives, dating from 2013 to 2017. The latter marks the year Kalanick stepped down as CEO of Uber amid mounting controversy.
Work with International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ), The Guardian shared the treasure with 180 journalists in 40 publications in 29 countries. The documents show that a company was willing to do things that many of its executives considered “devilishly illegal.”
In 2016, for example, Kalanick it is reported ordered French officials to encourage local Uber drivers to oppose the taxi strikes taking place in Paris at the time. When one executive warned Kalanick that “far-right thugs” were part of the protest, the former CEO pushed back. “I think it’s worth it,” he said. “Warranty for violence[s] Good luck. And these guys have to be countered, right?”
Said one former senior executive The Guardian that Kalanick’s response was consistent with the strategy of “weaponizing” drivers and the playbook the company has returned to in other countries.
Another selection of documents describes how long the company went to avoid regulatory scrutiny. In at least 12 cases, Uber ordered employees at local offices in six countries, including France, the Netherlands and India, to use a “kill switch,” an internal tool the company developed to protect its data.
“Please hit the off button as soon as possible,” Kalanick wrote in one email shared by The Washington Post. “Access should be stopped at AMS,” he added, referring to the company’s office in Amsterdam. In two cases involving Uber’s Montreal office, authorities entered the building only to see all the computers and tablets before them reset at the same time. The company said The message “such software should never have been used to thwart legitimate regulatory action” and that it stopped using the system in 2017.
“We have not and will not make excuses for past behavior that is clearly inconsistent with our current values,” said Jill Hazelbaker, Uber’s senior vice president of marketing and public affairs, in statement the company issued after The Guardian published its findings on Uber’s files. “Instead, we ask the public to judge us by what we have done in the past five years and what we will do in the years to come.”
IN statement published by the ICIJ, Travis Kalanick’s spokesman said any suggestion that the former CEO had “directed, participated or participated” in “illegal or wrongful conduct” was “absolutely false.”
“The reality was that Uber’s expansion initiatives were led by over a hundred leaders in dozens of countries around the world and at all times under the direct supervision and full approval of Uber’s strong legal, policy and compliance groups,” they added.
All products recommended by Engadget are selected by our editorial team, independent of our parent company. Some of our stories contain affiliate links. If you buy something through one of these links, we may earn an affiliate commission.