Uber’s in More Hot Water — This Time, for Spying on Its Drivers

Apr 14, 2017

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In case you haven’t heard: Uber is not having the greatest year thus far. Between the #DeleteUber movement in January where more than 200,000 Uber users deleted the app, the claims of sexual harassment at the corporate level and more, things could be going a lot more smoothly. Well, it looks like that downward spiral is continuing.

The Information is reporting that the company launched a software-based program called “Hell.” The program worked to track down Uber drivers who were also driving for its direct competitor, Lyft. Hell would create fake Lyft rider accounts and fool Lyft drivers into thinking the riders were located around a city. When the Lyft driver would go, Uber would be able to detect where all the Lyft drivers were within a city.

Because it was able to track Lyft drivers’ locations, Uber was able to see which drivers were driving for both companies. From there, Uber would use that information to incentivize those drivers to drive more for Uber. For example, Hell would give “double-apping” drivers special bonuses for meeting a select number of rides per week. According to the data Hell uncovered, about 60% of drivers were driving for both Uber and Lyft, and as a result, Uber dished out tens of millions of dollars in bonuses each week.

The ride sharing app Uber is seen on a smartphone in front of a binary background, in Bydgoszcz, on August 7, 2016. (Photo by Jaap Arriens/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

The program was launched in 2014 and was used to spy on its drivers until 2016. Uber stopped using Hell after Lyft had raised more than $1 billion in funding and expanded its ride-share network to more cities, hence creating more douple-apping drivers. So, Uber stopped the program so it could avoid expending too much in bonuses to its drivers.

Uber CEO Travis Kalanick, who’s been under fire after video surfaced of him getting in a heated argument with a driver, reportedly praised employees who ran the Hell program. Kalanick would also reportedly comment on how the Hell program fit the company’s culture of “hustle.”

If the allegations about the existence of the Hell program prove to be true, the company could face a number of allegations. According to The Information, a law firm that’s worked with Uber in the past said those allegations could include unfair business practices, misappropriation of trade secrets, breach of contract and violation of the federal Computer Fraud and Abuse Act.

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