We may have a case of good old-fashioned corporate espionage on our hands with the recent report that Uber secretly tracked drivers for ride-sharing competitor Lyft. The tracking was reportedly done using an internal software program nicknamed “Hell”. The program allowed Uber to see how many Lyft drivers were free at a given time, what prices they were charging, and which Lyft drivers were also working for Uber.
Apparently, the system functioned by Uber deducing the numerical user ID that Lyft assigned to each of its drivers, and using those identification numbers to track the employees. Once they gathered the information they needed, Uber could offer favorable drivers financial incentives to exclusively work for Uber. According to internal sources, Uber stopped using “Hell” in early 2016.
After this information came out, lawyers have opined that Lyft could sue Uber for breach of contract, unfair business practices, stealing trade secrets, and/or violating the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act. Lyft itself has not commented on a potential suit yet, although it did say in an official statement that “these allegations are very concerning.”
The ride-sharing giant Uber lost $2.8 billion in 2016, according to a Bloomberg report on Friday. However, Uber investors are pleased with the news that gross bookings in 2016 added up to $20 billion, which was double the gross in 2015. Rachel Holt, who oversees the American division of Uber, spun the numbers this way: “We’re fortunate to have a healthy and growing business.” Some may dispute that claim, as this “Hell” revelation is only another of many public relations hits that the company has taken over the past year. Several cases of sexual harassment and discrimination on the part of Uber drivers have resulted in legal headaches for the company, while a conflict between Uber’s CEO and Uber’s head of communications led to the latter quitting.