Uber has confirmed that it is cooperating with the FBI who has launched an investigation into its “Hell” software, over concerns it illegally tracked the positions of Lyft drivers, its major competitor in the ride-sharing business.
The existence of the “Hell” program was first made public in April. Only a select few employees of Uber knew of its existence and purpose, which was to track Lyft drivers to see if they were working for both services, and access pricing and car location data. The software posed as a regular Lyft passenger, lifted any information it could garner from the app, then passed it back to Uber. The legality of the program was questionable, but not clearly illegal, as it seems that all the data was publicly available to Lyft passengers; however, they would have had to sign up for the app and commit to its terms of service, rather than just immediately having access to the data. According to the report, the program was discontinued in early 2016.
Originally reported in the Wall Street Journal, the FBI probe into the software is only one of a growing list of federal investigations into Uber, which are causing a headache for their recently appointed CEO Dara Khosrowshahi, who only took the job at the end of August, after their previous CEO and Founder Travis Kalanick was forced to resign after a series of scandals. Unsurprisingly, Kalanick was one of the few who were aware of the “Hell” application. Khosrowashahi has yet to comment on any of the investigations himself.
One of the investigations Uber is under relates to yet another tracking device, known as “Greyball,” which identified government regulators attempting to test the app for breaking local taxi codes, and then either blocking them from receiving a ride, or showing a map that included the positions of fake cars, obscuring the real locations. Uber acknowledged its existence and shut down its use after a New York Times report.
The Justice Department is at the head of another investigation into the app, announcing it has taken “preliminary steps” into investigating whether Uber violated the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act by bribing foreign officials to secure business contracts.