Federal prosecutors are investigating allegations that Uber deployed an espionage team to plunder trade secrets from its rivals. The revelation triggered a delay in a high-profile trial over whether the beleaguered ride-hailing service stole self-driving car technology from a Google spinoff.
The probe underway at the U.S. Justice Department centers on a 37-page letter that described allegations made by Richard Jacobs, Uber’s former manager of global intelligence. Jacobs had the letter sent in May to an Uber lawyer. The letter contended that Jacobs had been wrongfully demoted and then fired for trying to stop the company’s alleged misconduct.
The investigation hadn’t been publicly known until Tuesday when it surfaced in a court hearing that was supposed to set the stage for a trial pitting Uber against Waymo, a self-driving car pioneer that started within Google eight years ago.
The hearing instead quickly turned into a forum raising more questions about Uber’s ethics and corporate culture. Over the past year, Uber has been rocked by revelations of rampant sexual harassment inside the company, technological trickery designed to thwart regulators and a yearlong cover-up of a hacking attack that stole the personal information of 57 million passengers and 600,000 drivers.
Jacobs, whose lawyer wrote the letter at the center of the courtroom drama, testified Tuesday that Uber had set up a secret unit to steal trade secrets from its rivals overseas. He didn’t specify which competitors Uber had targeted but said some of the stolen information involved drivers. His allegations had been kept under wraps until the Justice Department passed them along to U.S. District Judge William Alsup last week.
To protect itself against potential trouble, Uber frequently communicated on a service called Wickr that automatically erases messages, according to Jacobs. The company also relied on a surreptitious computer system… To read the complete Associated Press article click here