If there’s one phenomenon that Uber wants to avoid more than anything else, in the mid-2010s, it’s having its drivers arrested by the police. It is bad for the image and for the business: it is expensive and discourages drivers from offering their services. In many countries where all or part of Uber’s services were considered illegal, a technique has flourished among law enforcement: pretending to be a customer, ordering a ride, and picking up the driver when he arrives. In response, the company has developed specific internal procedures and tools that should track down law enforcement personnel and present them with a modified version of the app so they won’t be able to book a ride.
Such methods, internally referred to as “gray ball”were revealed by a poll of New York Times in 2017. “We stopped using these tools in 2017 when Dara Khosrowshahi became CEO and, as we have said several times, they should never have been used. We have cooperated in all investigations into the use of these tools. To our knowledge, all are closed or no longer active, without any irregularities being found.Uber replied, asked by “Uber Files” reporters.
“Uber Files”, an international investigation
“Uber Files” is an investigation based on thousands of internal Uber documents sent from an anonymous source to the British newspaper The Guardianand forwarded to the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) and 42 media partners, including The world.
Emails, presentations, minutes of meetings… These 124,000 documents, dated from 2013 to 2017, offer a rare dive into the mysteries of a start-up that was then trying to establish itself in cities around the world despite an unfavorable regulatory environment. They detail how Uber has used all the lobbying tricks in France as elsewhere to try to change the law for its own benefit.
The “Uber Files” also reveal how the Californian group, determined to impose itself by fait accompli and, if necessary, by operating illegally, has implemented practices deliberately playing with the limits of the law, or which may constitute a judicial obstacle to the investigations referred to. it was object.
Find all our articles from the “Uber Files” survey.
The investigation of World and its partners, however, allows documenting the use of this system in new countries. It also shows to what extent this tool occupied a predominant and usual place in Uber’s arsenal before the authorities.
This is the case, for example, in Belgium, where local teams have perfected their techniques so well that they are presented during an internal seminar. First step: identify suspicious users. You must first go through all the errands that led to the arrest of a driver and write it down “the driver, the client, the place of departure, the place of arrival, the date and time of the client’s check-in” to find “Recurring patterns”. The Brussels teams have even developed a specific algorithm to assess the risk that drivers will face with law enforcement representatives.
Finally, check out any Uber users who have opened the app near a police station. Once the profiles ” at risk “ spotted, a second step begins: make sure they can’t order vehicles. If they are notified of arrests, Uber teams can also define a geographic area where it becomes impossible to order a vehicle.
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