Apple CEO Tim Cook once threatened to throw Uber’s app out of the App Store, as the latter allegedly continued to track iPhones even after users deleted the app. The ride-sharing service is known for meddling with rules and regulations, but Apple’s warning could have threatened its very existence.
Why Apple CEO scolded Kalanick
According to The New York Times, in 2015, Cook asked Chief Executive Travis Kalanick, “So, I’ve heard you’ve been breaking some of our rules.”
Thereafter, Cook reportedly told Kalanick to stop breaking the rules, or his app would be banned from the App Store, which would have been a big blow for the company. After Cook scolded him, Kalanick reportedly agreed to stop tracking phones.
Uber notoriously tweaked the code after which anyone accessing its app from Apple’s headquarters would see a different version of the app, sans the bits of code that tracked iPhones even after it was deleted. Such a practice — known as geofencing — was spotted by Apple engineers, who later raised the alarm. After this, Kalanick and Cook reportedly met to discuss the issue.
Uber apparently practiced the fingerprinting method to track devices and stated that this is a common practice followed by companies for fraud prevention. The ride-sharing service stated that fingerprinting was first used in China because drivers there would register multiple Uber accounts on stolen iPhones and request rides with them, thereby increasing the number of rides to get bonuses.
Uber told TechCrunch that it still uses some form of device fingerprinting to unearth fraudulent behavior. The company stated that if a device has been found to be involved in some sort of fraud, a new sign-up from the same device would raise a red flag. The fingerprint practice was modified a little to match Apple’s requirements rather than discontinuing the practice altogether, the company said.
“We absolutely do not track individual users or their location if they’ve deleted the app,” Uber’s spokesperson said.
Uber CEO aims to win at any cost?
Earlier, Apple allowed app developers to track their users with a Unique Device Identifier or UDID. This practice was common, but later the company shut down UDIDs in a quest to offer better privacy. The iPhone maker replaced the UDID system with other, less intrusive trackers such as Vendor IDs and Advertising IDs.
However, this is not the first time Kalanick has shown disregard for rules and regulations, and stopped the particular service only when caught or cornered. The company has repeatedly been blamed for stretching or even breaching transportation and safety norms and also taking advantage of loopholes in the legal system to gain business advantages.
According to current and former Uber employees and investors, Kalanick aims to win at any cost, and he is ready to do anything, reports ET. However, this trait has now landed the company neck-deep in crises. Kalanick’s biggest strength and weakness “is that he will run through a wall to accomplish his goals,” said Mark Cuban, owner of the Dallas Mavericks and the billionaire investor who mentored Kalanick.