Uber used tech tool to shield data from police outside US

FILE - This Wednesday, June 21, 2017, file photo shows the building that houses the headquarters of Uber in San Francisco. A published report says Uber used technology during police raids outside the U.S. to keep company information from law enforcement. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg, File)

NEW YORK — The ride-sharing company Uber confirmed Thursday that it had technology to shield company data when law enforcement raided its offices outside the U.S.

Uber spokeswoman Melanie Ensign said this tool — no longer in use — could lock computers and smartphones and change passwords remotely from the company's headquarters in San Francisco.

Bloomberg reported Thursday that Uber used the tool, known as Ripley, from spring 2015 until late 2016 in several cities, including Paris, Hong Kong, Brussels, Amsterdam and Montreal.

Bloomberg said some Uber employees felt the system hindered legitimate investigations, while some people believed its use was justified when police didn't come with warrants or specific-enough data requests.

The use of this tool raises questions for Uber because the company has in the past used a phony version of its app to thwart authorities. The "Greyball" software identified regulators who were trying to hail a ride in an attempt to collect evidence of local law-breaking. Those rides would be canceled or never arrive. It has also been reported that the Justice Department was investigating whether Uber illegally used software to track drivers of its rival Lyft.

Bloomberg reported that authorities in Montreal were seeking evidence in May 2015 that Uber had violated tax laws. Uber's use of Ripley meant they didn't get any information, but Uber cooperated with a second search warrant and agreed to collect provincial taxes for each ride, Bloomberg said.

Ensign said the company shut down Ripley in 2016 because it didn't work well.

She said Uber now has a tool called ULocker that can remotely lock and encrypt devices. Ensign could not immediately say if Uber has used that to protect data from law enforcement as well. But she said Uber's guidance to employees bars use of the tool where it isn't legal.

In a statement, Uber said this security tool is similar to those used by other companies and gives Uber a way to block access to data when an employee loses a device. The company said its policy is to cooperate with "all valid searches and requests for data."

The ride-hailing service had a scandal-ridden 2017 that included lawsuits, government probes, the revelation of a significant sexual-harassment problem and the disclosure of a cover-up of a hack that stole personal information of 57 million passengers and 600,000 drivers. The company's hard-charging CEO, Travis Kalanick, resigned in June and was replaced in August by the former CEO of Expedia, Dara Khosrowshahi.

You may also interested in

NASA: Last month was Earth's hottest in recorded history

Aug 15, 2016

NASA calculates that Earth broiled to its hottest month in recorded history in July

Google's Duo app joins crowded field of video calling

Aug 16, 2016

Google releases video calling app Duo in challenge to other popular services run by Apple, Microsoft, Facebook

China's launch of quantum satellite major step in space race

Aug 16, 2016

Experts say China's launch of the first quantum satellite will push forward the worldwide effort to develop the ability to send communications that can't be penetrated by hackers

People also read these

Director: New Mexico spaceport positioned for next frontier

Aug 13, 2016

New Mexico's Spaceport America has hosted nearly 30 vertical rocket launches and its futurist hangar and runway are ready for tourists as all the infrastructure is in place for the next step in the commercial space race

IOC fights cyberattacks during Olympics

Aug 13, 2016

The International Olympic Committee is fending off massive cyberattacks during the Rio de Janeiro Olympics

Bangladesh tries to move stranded elephant to safari park

Aug 14, 2016

Wildlife officials are trying to bring an elephant to a safari park outside Bangladesh's capital after it was carried from India to Bangladesh by raging floodwaters and became stuck in a swampy area

Weather, 20 December
Houston Weather
+7

High: +11° Low: -2°

Humidity: 83%

Wind: NNE - 7 KPH

Canberra Weather
+27

High: +27° Low: +17°

Humidity: 87%

Wind: W - 20 KPH

Roissy-en-France Weather
+6

High: +6° Low: -5°

Humidity: 87%

Wind: ENE - 7 KPH

Florence Weather
+9

High: +9° Low: +6°

Humidity: 97%

Wind: ENE - 17 KPH

Parga Weather
+7

High: +16° Low: +4°

Humidity: 100%

Wind: SE - 25 KPH