Uber seems to have a habit of being in the news, mostly for the wrong reasons. Now a recent report seriously questions Uber’s business practices. According to The Information, the transportation service secretly tracked the drivers of rival Lyft using an internal software program code-named ‘Hell.’
How the secret software Hell allegedly tracked Lyft drivers
Uber’s covert software-based program spied and targeted Lyft drivers from 2014 to early 2016, claims The Information. The report says that the software involved the use of fake passenger accounts imitating their locations to find about eight nearby available Lyft drivers.
Th company allegedly bought the software to monitor how many Lyft drivers were available for rides, the prices charged by them, and how many of them drove for Uber as well. If true, this means Uber had information that made it simpler for it to provide those drivers incentives — mostly financial — to switch over to Uber exclusively. The program’s data reportedly revealed that about 60% of Lyft drivers drove for Uber as well. As a result, the company ended up spending tens of millions of dollars a week in bonuses.
The report, which cites an anonymous source involved in the program, says the ride-sharing service stopped using the secret software program in early 2016, around the time its rival closed a $1 billion funding round and began expanding to more cities. Only a few at the ride-sharing service company, including CEO Kalanick, some data scientists, and several other executives, knew about the software.
The secret program was called “Hell” because it was the counterpart to the company’s tool dubbed “Heaven” or “God View,” which tracked its own passengers and drivers. The app “God View” was also infamously used by the San-Francisco-based company’s employees to stalk ex-girlfriends, journalists and celebrities, according to TechCrunch.
Nothing going right for Uber
This recent report places another black star on Uber’s reputation, which has been ruined already by several recent incidents of discrimination and sexual harassment, CEO Travis Kalanick’s questionable behavior, and the ongoing court battle with Waymo – Google’s self-driving project — over alleged theft of intellectual property.
Uber has allegedly been using questionable apps for a long time. It’s been accused not only of abusing the “God View” app but also using “Greyball,” which was designed to assist in bypassing local laws. The ride-sharing service was said to have stopped used the app last month. The U.S. company is also not exactly doing well either, as recently, Rachel Whetstone, the head of communications, reportedly quit because of conflicts with Kalanick.
According to The Information, the lawyers who represented the company in other cases believe it could face civil legal claims for its use of Hell. The legal claims may include unfair business practices, breach of contract, violating the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, and misappropriation of trade secrets.
A spokesman for the company told The Information that it would not discuss its internal processes publicly.
A Lyft spokesperson, however, told The Information, “We are in a competitive industry. However, if true, these allegations are very concerning.”