Uber Execs Pulls Plug on Illegal Surveillance

In a recent e-mail message collaboration between Uber's CEO Dara Khosrowshahi and Uber's new top Legal Officer Tony West, have started to incorporate proper business standards while disclaiming the past and stating emphatically that any employee involved in the previous management style of activities will not be tolerated. Tony West was once a former associate attorney general and Executive Vice President of Government Affairs, General Counsel and Corporate Secretary for PepsiCo, Inc.

The mail might have been leaked out on purpose as part of a CYA initiative showing the world how Uber is challenging the past, disassociating itself from the past activities and trying to provide proof of the new corporate identity and ethics. However, no matter the reason, if this is truly what is happening in Uber then the new executive has a chance of truly transforming this company. Whether this comes in time or not will be abundantly clear once the various trials and Federal investigations start to sentence Uber for all its past indiscretions.

The recent bout of legal action comes from the fallout of a letter ex-security employee Richard Jacobs sent to Uber that came to light during the Uber-Waymo case in court. To be succinct, the letter reached the court via the Attorney Generals' Office and not through Uber's legal representation, which infuriated the Judge and stained the "new" light that was supposed to have been cleaned up during the previous few months.

Jacob's Letter is 27 pages long and in it Jacob's states that Uber was involved in industrial espionage, including recording conversations of competing rivals, Didi Chuxing in China. Here is an excerpt from the letter; "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."

Here is Uber CEO, Dara Khosrowshahi's letter to his staff.

Team -

I wanted to share Tony's note to the security team because I couldn't agree more with what he has outlined here.

The last 10 days have reminded us that things happened in the past that never should have occurred. The news that we failed to disclose a significant data breach, and that we showed poor judgment in our approach to competitors and our use of ephemeral communication for business purposes, has hurt the company just when we are beginning to turn the page.

I've already said that the decision not to disclose the breach was wrong, and we have held those responsible accountable.

With regard to the allegations outlined in Ric Jacobs' letter, I can tell you that we have not been able to substantiate every one of his claims, including any related to Waymo. But I will also say that there is more than enough there to merit serious concern.

As I hope you've seen over the past 2.5 months, I will always be fair when people admit mistakes or bring hard problems to me. But let me be clear: I have drawn a line. I will not tolerate misconduct or misbehavior that was endorsed or excused in the past. Period.

I want to close by saying that I couldn't be happier to have partners in Tony and the ELT as we work to build a company that every one of us can be proud of.

Onward … and Upward.


---------- Forwarded message ----------

From: Tony West

Date: Wed, Nov 29, 2017, at 11:42 AM

Subject: To My Security Colleagues,

As you all know, it's been less than a week since I started on this job. It's been an eventful period, to say the least, and I'm learning new things about Uber every day. One of the things that is constantly being reaffirmed to me is just how incredibly talented, smart, dedicated and loyal the people who work for this company are. I'm proud to be part of your team.

At the same time, in the spirit of transparency that I spoke about at the all-hands meeting yesterday, I must also say that I'm learning about practices we followed here in the past that are simply unacceptable; things that we cannot and will not tolerate at this company going forward.

A prime example is the failure to disclose last year's data breach to appropriate parties in a timely manner. Another I've just learned about in the last couple of days involves Uber security personnel engaging in the human surveillance of individuals who work for competitors.

Dara and I are still learning the details about the extent of these operations and who was involved in directing them, but suffice it to say there is no place for such practices or that kind of behavior at Uber. We don't need to be following folks around in order to gain some competitive advantage. We're better than that. We will compete and we will win because our technology is better, our ideas are better, and our people are better. Period.

My understanding is that this behavior no longer occurs at Uber; that this truly is a remnant of the past. And I have not learned anything in the last couple of days that suggests otherwise. But, to be crystal clear, to the extent anyone is working on any kind of competitive intelligence project that involves the surveillance of individuals, stop it now.

Let me also add that I've not learned of anything regarding the surveillance practices that would be considered illegal. However, as you will hear me say many times, the question for us is not just whether something is legal; we must also ask ourselves whether it's the right thing to do.

The data breach and human surveillance are the two biggest issues I've learned about in my short time here. If you are aware of or concerned about any other practices that could be questionable that occurred in the past or are occurring now, I expect you to raise those through the Hotline process immediately. We need to turn the page and begin writing our next Uber chapter, and I need your help to do that.

I'll continue to communicate with you about this and other topics in the coming days and weeks. As Dara said the all-hands meeting yesterday, we can expect some bumpy days ahead as more information about this and other past practices comes to light. But as much as Uber will be judged on what we've done in the past, people will be watching just as closely to see how we handle our response to these matters going forward.

And I'm confident that, working together, we will pass that test.