Board hired law firm to investigate internal competitive intelligence efforts

Bloomberg reports that Uber’s board hired an external law firm “to question security staff and investigate activities” overseen by Joe Sullivan, Uber’s Chief Security Officer. Bloomberg says the investigation specifically included COIN, the Competitive Intelligence program whereby Uber collected information about drivers and activity at Grab (via a system Uber called Surfcam) as well as Lyft (via Hell).

Bloomberg describes other Sullivan efforts including surveiling competitors and certain employees, as well as vetting potential hires.

Hired private investigators to monitor employee, surveil competitors, and vet potential hires

Bloomberg reports that Uber hired private investigators to monitor an employee, China strategy chief Liu Zhen. It seems Uber’s concern was that Liu’s cousin Jean Liu is president of ride-hailing competitor Didi Chuxing.

Bloomberg further reports Uber surveiling competitors, and conducting “extensive vetting on potential hires.”

The use of private investigators was overseen by Joe Sullivan, Uber’s Chief Security Officer, through a team called Strategic Services Group.

Tracked driver activity on Grab

Uber sought information about the drivers and activity of Grab, Uber’s major competitor in Southeast Asia. To do so, Uber’s Surfcam program connected to Grab servers to figure out how many drivers were connected and where they were.

Bloomberg describes legal concerns associated with Surfcam:

Surfcam raised alarms with at least one member of Uber’s legal team, who questioned whether it could be legally operated in Singapore because it may run afoul of Grab’s terms of service or the country’s strict computer-crime laws, a person familiar with the matter said.

Nonetheless, Bloomberg reports, the creator of Surfcam is still working for Uber, having moved from Singapore to Uber’s European headquarters in Amsterdam.

See also the “Hell” program whereby Uber tracked data from Lyft.

Confident of victory, Google sought $1 billion settlement from Uber

Confident that it would prevail in trade secret litigation alleging that Uber stole Google information, Google proposed that Uber pay $1 billion of damages, issue a public apology, and appoint an independent monitor to assure that Uber does not use Google technology i nthe future.

Reuters interpreted Google’s proposal: “Waymo’s tough negotiating stance, which has not been previously reported, reflects the company’s confidence in its legal position after months of pretrial victories in a case which may help to determine who emerges in the forefront of the fast-growing field of self-driving cars. The aggressive settlement demands also suggest that Waymo is not in a hurry to resolve the lawsuit, in part because of its value as a distraction for Uber leadership.”

Uber rejected the proposal.

Tracked driver activity on Lyft servers

News site The Information in April 2017 reported that Uber built a program it called “Hell” to track how many Lyft drivers were available, where they were located, and whether they drove for Uber also.  Uber then targeted these drivers with special promotions to encourage them to use Uber only.

By all indications, Uber collected data for “Hell” by connecting to Lyft’s servers in a manner prohibited by Lyft’s Terms of Service.

The Information reported that Uber then-CEO Travis Kalanick personally praised the Hell team, saying that they demonstrated Uber’s culture in their willingness to “hustle” in order to win.

In September 2017, the Wall Street Journal reported the FBI investigating Uber’s “Hell” practices.

Bloomberg reports that Hell was overseen by Joe Sullivan, Chief Security Officer of Uber, through a team formerly known as Competitive Intelligence.

See also the “Surfcam” program whereby Uber tracked data from Grab.

Google alleges Uber stole its autonomous car technologies

In a February 2017 lawsuit, Google alleged that Uber stole proprietary Google technology for autonomous cars. Google reported that Anthony Levandowski, an original member of Google’s self-driving car project, downloaded over 14,000 confidential files (9.7GB) pertaining to Google’s designs and testing, and used this information in Otto, a self-driving company that Uber later acquired. Complaint.

When Levandowski refused to testify or otherwise cooperate with litigation, invoking the Fifth Amendment to refuse to incriminate himself, Uber fired him.

Litigation brought by Benchmark Capital indicates that Uber CEO Travis Kalanick knew, before acquiring Otto, about the likelihood that Levandowski had Google materials. In particular, in March 2016, a month before Uber acquired Otto, Uber retained an investigator to assess whether Levandowski and others had Google materials. Benchmark Capital further alleges that Kalanick never shared this information with Uber investors.