Uber has used tool to evade police during foreign raids

The specially trained staff then remotely log off every computer in that office, Bloomberg reported, "making it practically impossible for the authorities to retrieve the company records they'd obtained a warrant to collect". There's also that time it geofenced Apple HQ to try and stop the company from realising Uber was still tracking phones that had deleted the Uber app.

It then adds, "Like managers at Uber's hundreds of offices overseas, they'd been trained to page a number that alerted specially trained staff at company headquarters in San Francisco".

Bloomberg said the system had been used at least two dozen times in cities including Paris, Hong Kong, Brussels, Amsterdam and Montreal.

In one case Ripley was deployed to prevent Canadian tax investigators, who believed Uber had violated tax laws, from collecting evidence even though they had a warrant. The company now uses a tool called ULocker that can remotely lock and encrypt devices.

It's no secret that corporations often employ questionable and often downright illegal tactics to hide sensitive, potentially incriminating evidence from investigators.

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The Ripley system allowed staffers to remotely change passwords and otherwise lock up data on company-owned smartphones, laptops and desktops as well as shut down devices. The tool is christened "Ripley", inspired by the trigger-happy, flamethrower-wielding character from the Aliens movie franchise. "It's the only way to be sure".

Now, as Bloomberg reports, Khosrowshahi must dodge the fallout from the news that Uber regularly employed a secret program to shut down its computer systems and evade authorities in the event of a police raid.

Later versions of the system gave Uber the ability to offer selective access to authorities, presumably to stop anyone trying to snoop around places not covered by warrants and court orders. Ripley stands out because it was used regularly. The three people with knowledge of the tool believe it was justified, however, since they claim authorities outside the United States didn't always come with warrants and often relied on rather broad orders.

The ride-sharing company Uber confirms it had technology to shield company data when law enforcement raided offices outside the U.S.

'When it comes to government investigations, it's our policy to cooperate with all valid searches and requests for data.

  • Rita Burton