The Uber Files: Inside The Cab-Hailing Firm's History Of Lawbreaking And Exploitation

The Uber Files is an international investigation based on more than 1,24,000 leaked records consisting of internal company emails, memos, presentations and Whatsapp messages.


They reveal how the ride-hailing company found ways around the law and lobbied aggressively with governments during its expansion.


Uber logo on a phone

Reportedly, Uber leveraged violence against its drivers to push for meetings with politicians. It provided details to journalists if company officials thought the violence would result in negative attention for the taxi industry.


The company used technological tools such as the 'kill switch' to disrupt regulatory raids in India, Netherlands, Canada, Belgium, Romania, France, and Hungary.


The kill switch is a process that shuts down the local system to firewall them from any probe. As per the records, the 'Kill Switch' was used even as raids by regulators were in progress at the Uber offices.


Tools like 'grey ball' and 'geofencing' were used to keep Uber rides away from Policemen and Government Officials. It identified officials who were ordering Uber cars to gather evidence and showed them a fake version of the app with "phantom cars" that never arrived. Such incidences happened in the Netherlands, Belgium, Russia, Bulgaria, Denmark, Spain and other countries.


POLITICAL ALLIES


Two of Barack Obama's most senior presidential campaign advisers discussed helping Uber to access leaders, officials and diplomats.


As economy minister, Emmanuel Macron went to extraordinary lengths to support Uber, even telling the company he had brokered a 'deal' with its opponents in the French cabinet.


The former vice-president of the European Commission Neelie Kroes secretly helped Uber to lobby a string of top Dutch politicians.


THE INDIAN CRISIS


The company was hit by a crisis in December 2014, when a passenger in New Delhi was raped in an Uber car by the driver.


As per media reports, the "panic button" that Uber promised in every cab is yet to be integrated with Delhi Police and State Transport Department Systems.


EMBRACE THE CHAOS


The data also expands on the manner in which Uber tackled tax and regulation issues that arose frequently in India, and used it as an example in other countries.


In August 2014, Uber's then Asia Head, Allen Penn, sent an email to the team in India that read:


"....we will generally stall, be unresponsive, and often say no to what they want. This is how we operate and it's nearly always the best."


OFFICIAL PIRATES


The files reveal that a senior executive wrote in an email:


"We are not legal in many countries, we should avoid making antagonistic statements."


Another executive reportedly wrote:


"We have officially become pirates," in response to the strategies Uber deployed to "avoid enforcement."