A letter written by the attorney of former Uber security employee Richard Jacobs alleges that Uber took part in unethical competitive surveillance practices and spied on individuals working at competing companies.
Recode reports that a 37-page letter detailing surveillance practices alleged by former security employee Richard Jacobs has been released as Google’s parent company Alphabet continues their lawsuit against Uber relating to Waymo’s driverless cars.
The letter, written by Jacobs’ attorney, was sent to Uber general counsel Angela Padilla after Jacobs left the company. It claims that Uber’s security team advised staff to use private encrypted messaging apps like Wickr and to use devices that couldn’t be linked to them to avoid leaving any evidence of their conversations. Jacobs also claims that Uber spied on employees of rival companies to gain competitive intelligence.
This program, formerly known as the Strategic Services Group, under Nick Gicinto, collected intelligence and conducted unauthorized surveillance, including unauthorized recording of private conversations against executives from competitor firms, such as DiDi Chuxing and against its own employees and contractors at the Autonomous Technologies Group in Pittsburgh.
Current Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi also said in a statement that the contents of the letter was enough to “merit serious concern.”
An Uber spokesperson commented on the letter, saying, “While we haven’t substantiated all the claims in this letter — and, importantly, any related to Waymo — our new leadership has made clear that going forward we will compete honestly and fairly, on the strength of our ideas and technology.”
Uber eventually settled with Jacobs for $4.5 million following his resignation. $1 million of this settlement was reportedly considered a consulting fee for helping Uber with an internal investigation. Padilla stated Uber settled with Jacobs to avoid litigation and further distraction to the company and claimed that the cost of discovery for the case alone could be as much as $5 million.