Well, it seems Uber has walked into another troublesome situation and this one could get real nasty. The $68 billion ride-hailing giant is embroiled in several other scuffles and its reputation is currently at stake. According to a fresh report from The Information, Uber employed a secret program to track drivers operating on its competitor’s ride-hailing service Lyft.
This software program was dubbed Hell, in reference to the company’s God View tool, which helps them track users five minutes post the ride has been completed. It enabled Uber to gain access to Lyft’s driver data, meaning how many many drivers were operating in a particular region at a particular time, what prices or discount offers were they offering and also if they operating both for Uber, as well as Lyft at the same time.
As for how Uber gained access to Lyft’s sensitive driver info, the ride-hailing giant used this internal software to create fake passenger accounts on its rival ride-hailing giant’s platform. Citing an anonymous source involved in the program, the report mentions that the Hell software was being employed to spoof passenger locations – show fake location within Lyft’s app – to learn about the eight closest Lyft drivers around a certain location. Each fake passenger was shown the eight closest drivers, providing Uber with massive troves of information.
The details of this internal program were known only to a handful of people at Uber, including CEO Travis Kalanick, some executives and data scientists. And they were able to discover that Lyft assigns a unique numerical ID to each driver partner in its system and the same did not change over a period of time. Thus, Uber exploited the vulnerability in its rival’s app to then track the individual habits of each driver.
Using this unique ID, Uber was not only able to track individual habits, such as the time when the driver logged into Lyft’s mobile app and locations preferred by them but also track which drivers working for both them and its competitor at the same instant. The ride-hailing giant was able to deduce this by matching their own driver location data with that collected from Lyft drivers.
When this data was available to Uber executives, they were able to modify its own pricing and incentive schemes to attract the drivers to its platform in favor of Lyft. It means they were wrongfully convinced of being chosen for extra incentives but the truth is Uber was manipulating them in an attempt to bury its rival. The source further suggests that the program was closed back in early 2016 when its rival, Lyft closed a massive $1 billion funding round.
Further, the report continues to mention that Uber’s internal tactics can potentially land them into legal troubles as the ride-hailing giant is operating in grave violation of Lyft’s terms of service. This prohibits everyone from impersonating an individual or entity on their platform. The Information talked to Uber’s previously appointed lawyers for different cases and they believe the company can face legal action for the use of Hell. The company can be charged for fraud, misappropriate of trade secrets, and violation of federal Computer Fraud and Abuse Act.
This is, however, not the very first time Uber has been accused of tracking someone using an internal program. Previously, Greyball program was being operated to bypass local authorities in certain areas. The software enabled Uber to identify and deny cab requests made by people, such as law enforcement authorities, who violate its terms of service. Uber released a statement last month stating that this program, which has now been cancelled, was being used for:
the testing of new features by employees; marketing promotions; fraud prevention; to protect our partners from physical harm; and to deter riders using the app in violation of our terms of service.
An Uber spokesperson told the publication that it doesn’t publicly discuss its internal programs, while a Lyft spokesperson said that the revelation is very concerning if it proves to be true. However, we have contacted both the American ride-hailing giants for more information and will update you once we hear back from them.
The “anonymous guy” behind the desk who keeps pushing press releases and sponsored content on our site.
P.S. Don’t go to the profile pic on the left, we keep trolling one of our own writers with this… :p