Uber security specialist accused of spies to steal its rivals' trade secrets

Updated: Dec 17, 2017, 10:10 IST | Agencies | San Francisco

A former Uber security specialist accused the company of dispatching a team of spies to steal its rivals' trade secrets and using shady tactics to thwart its competition in the ride-hailing market

A former Uber security specialist accused the company of dispatching a team of spies to steal its rivals' trade secrets and using shady tactics to thwart its competition in the ride-hailing market, according an inflammatory letter unsealed by a federal judge. Those tactics allegedly included impersonating other people, illegally recording conversations and hacking into computers. Former Uber manager Richard Jacobs, who was fired earlier this year, made the explosive claims in a 37-page letter that sought a big payoff for being forced out of the company.

The letter alleges that two Uber execs played central roles in the clandestine operations. pic/afp
The letter alleges that two Uber execs played central roles in the clandestine operations. Pic/AFP

The letter, written by a lawyer on Jacobs' behalf, has already reshaped a high-profile trial pitting Uber against Waymo, a Google spin-off that accuses its rival of stealing its self-driving car technology. The letter also has become evidence in a criminal investigation being conducted by the US Justice Department. US District Judge William Alsup, who is overseeing the Waymo-Uber case, took the unusual step of recommending that federal prosecutors consider a criminal probe, based on the evidence and testimony that he had reviewed long before he knew about the letter.

"While we haven't substantiated all the claims in [Jacobs'] letter importantly, any related to Waymo, our new leadership has made clear that going forward we will compete honestly and fairly, on the strength of our ideas and technology," Uber said in a statement yesterday. Uber itself tried to hack into its rivals' computer networks in an effort to scoop up valuable information, Jacobs' letter alleges. The letter also alleges Uber regularly broke law by making unauthorised recordings of phone conversations, including at least one involving a sexual harassment complaint made by a former employee.

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