Uber built secret program to evade law enforcement

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SAN FRANCISCO - Uber confirmed Thursday that it once used technology to shield data from law enforcement during unexpected raids of its offices outside the USA, another example of the company using questionable tactics in its pursuit of market share.

Uber downplayed the tool and said it was common practice to have such software to remotely change passwords or lock devices in the event they were lost or stolen.

Uber developed and regularly made use of a secret program it built that locked down company devices to thwart police raids, Bloomberg Businessweek reported on Thursday. Last year, the Federal Bureau of Investigation reportedly opened a criminal probe into the taxi-service company over its "Hell" program, which was used to track drivers attached to its rival, Lyft, from 2014 to 2016.

When we asked Uber for comment, a spokesperson replied with the company's official statement: "Like every company with offices around the world, we have security procedures in place to protect corporate and customer data". Uber said this software is necessary to protect company data, along with the privacy of passengers, drivers and Uber employees.

The company reportedly used its Ripley tool during government raids in Amsterdam, Brussels, Hong Kong and Paris. But as he works to rebrand Uber in the eyes of the public and set the company back on track, he continues to uncover new messes that Kalanick left behind, including regulatory threats to Uber's business overseas, and a major data breach made worse by former employees' efforts to hide it.

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Ripley, the name of the software, took reportedly took its name form Sigourney Weaver's character in the 1979 sci-fi movie "Alien". The company also said its policy is to cooperate with all valid searches and requests for data. But the company maintains with regards to Ripley, it was in the right.

Other companies have shut off computers during police raids and later granted access after reviewing warrants, according to Bloomberg. Uber did eventually comply with a second search warrant, but according to the judge overseeing the Quebec tax authority's lawsuit against Uber, they believed "Uber wanted to shield evidence of its illegal activities" and its actions embodied "all the characteristics of an attempt to obstruct justice".

Late a year ago, news broke that Uber is officially under federal investigation for a program it called Greyball.

Uber has drawn scrutiny in the past for designing software to evade authorities.