Bloomberg says some Uber employees felt the Ripley system hindered legitimate investigations, while some people believed its use was justified when police didn't come with warrants or specific-enough data requests. Ripley allowed engineers based at the ride-hailing company's San Francisco headquarters to quickly deny remote access to driver and customer data.
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".
The system has reportedly been called Ripley, after the character played by Sigourney Weaver in the Alien film franchise who declares the best way to defeat the aliens: "Nuke the entire site from orbit".
Company spokeswoman Melanie Ensign confirmed that the tool existed, but said it was no longer in use.
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The service was able to show them a fake app populated with "ghost" cars and cancel their rides.
Uber doesn't have a very good relationship with regulators, and by that I mean it seems to do everything it can to avoid letting them do any investigation into the company.
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". Uber maintained that it never deleted the files and cooperated with another search warrant in which the files were covered once again.
Most recently, Uber was blasted by lawmakers after a disclosure related to the Waymo lawsuit revealed that Uber paid off hackers to keep quiet about a data breech that stole the personal information of 57 million passengers and 600,000 drivers.
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If you thought that Ripley was the only trick Uber had up its sleeve, wait till you hear about their other program called Greyball.
Most companies don't expect police to raid their offices, but Uber isn't most companies.
Uber said in a statement that, like all companies, it has various security procedures in place to protect its data.
The ability to lock down devices wasn't limited to computers, according to the report. "When it comes to government investigations, it's our policy to cooperate with all valid searches and requests for data". She said Uber's guidance to employees bars use of the tool where it isn't legal.
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