Uber sued for $5M over 'Hell' app used to track Lyft drivers

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in iPhone
Fresh off revelations of the ridesharing service's run-in with Apple, Uber is being sued for the use of an app called "Hell," which allegedly tracked drivers from the company's main U.S. rival Lyft.




Uber violated the California Invasion of Privacy Act and the Federal Wiretap Act, and engaged in unfair competition, according to plaintiff Michael Gonzales, who drove with Lyft when "Hell" is said to have been in action, TechCrunch reported. Gonzales is pursuing the case as a class action through the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, and asking for $5 million in damages.

The Hell app, detailed by The Information, supposedly let Uber see how many Lyft drivers were available in an area, what they were charging, and even which ones were also driving for Uber -- in that case, giving Uber the ability to push incentives that could keep drivers exclusive.

Only a handful of people at Uber are said to have been aware of Hell, among them CEO Travis Kalanick, a few other executives, and some data scientists. The app was allegedly discontinued in early 2016.

Recently a report claimed that in 2015, Apple CEO Tim Cook personally spoke with Kalanick over Uber's collection of UUIDs from iOS devices, threatening to kick the company's app out of the iOS App Store. While Uber was trying to prevent people from creating multiple fake accounts to claim new account bonuses, collecting hardware IDs is a violation of Apple rules.

Uber has repeatedly run into concerns about abusing data. It has used another tool, "Greyball," to deliberately avoid picking up government authorities in cities where it may not have permission to operate. People within the company have also been accused of stalking journalists, celebrities, and ex-lovers.

Comments

  • Reply 1 of 15
    FatmanFatman Posts: 286member
    Kalanivk is a border line criminal, and just a bad human being. Now that I posted that comment I probably will never be able to hail an Uber ride again.
    califrankieleftoverbaconlordjohnwhorfinlostkiwijcdinkinsjony0pulseimageswatto_cobra
  • Reply 2 of 15
    We get it...the tech media has a hard on for painting Uber as evil.

    I don't typically take such extreme tunnel vision views on issues like this. For instance:

    1. If it is against Apple's rules for Apps to collect UUID's of iOS devices, why is possible to do with a simple app submitted to the App Store? I know all about how they deliberately tried to get around Apple's rules by geofencing Cupertino and making that behavior not work in that locale, in hopes of defrauding the testers. But that doesn't answer the question of why it is possible for an App to even access the UUID in the first place? Uber found an efficient way to prevent loss and abuse of their own app, and they employed it. The only thing they did 'wrong' was violating Apple's rules and then deliberately hiding it from them.

    2. When Uber was being lambasted over their App tracking a user's location after the ride had ended...the tech media refused to even acknowledge how the entire Uber product revolves around location tracking, and you're going to begrudge them additional location data once your ass is out of the car and it doesn't serve your interest any more? Seems pretty absurd. Users give up ridiculous amounts of location data to other apps for the dumbest reasons imaginable. They choose this to get upset about. Even though Uber made a strong case for why the data is valuable...not so they can know where John Doe is 20 minutes after his ride, but to aggregate information on the behavior patterns of demographics using Uber, to better place drivers in the future, to make the service even more reliable. Are people already not even impressed when they pick up their phone needing a ride, and there is a Uber 5 minutes away? Heck, I'm still pretty impressed.

    3. How is the Hell app anything but brilliant? Assuming it is using publicly available information and they are not hacking Lyft to get the data.

    4. I'm unclear how Uber could possibly "not have permission to operate" anywhere. What government bureaucrat is sitting on that? Well, obviously the ones they refuse service to.

    5. "People within the company have also been accused of stalking journalists, celebrities, and ex-lovers." This is not a company policy or practice so it just a meaningless slander when voiced like this in the context of company doings.

    I don't really know why I'm defending Uber here...maybe because I see them as one of the few actual good ideas to come along in the last decade, and I can smell a media smear campaign from a mile away.
    caliicoco3
  • Reply 3 of 15
    Bye Uber. By this time next year you will be gone.
    califrankiepulseimageswatto_cobra
  • Reply 4 of 15
    asdasdasdasd Posts: 5,282member
    We get it...the tech media has a hard on for painting Uber as evil.

    I don't typically take such extreme tunnel vision views on issues like this. For instance:

    1. If it is against Apple's rules for Apps to collect UUID's of iOS devices, why is possible to do with a simple app submitted to the App Store? I know all about how they deliberately tried to get around Apple's rules by geofencing Cupertino and making that behavior not work in that locale, in hopes of defrauding the testers. But that doesn't answer the question of why it is possible for an App to even access the UUID in the first place? Uber found an efficient way to prevent loss and abuse of their own app, and they employed it. The only thing they did 'wrong' was violating Apple's rules and then deliberately hiding it from them.

    2. When Uber was being lambasted over their App tracking a user's location after the ride had ended...the tech media refused to even acknowledge how the entire Uber product revolves around location tracking, and you're going to begrudge them additional location data once your ass is out of the car and it doesn't serve your interest any more? Seems pretty absurd. Users give up ridiculous amounts of location data to other apps for the dumbest reasons imaginable. They choose this to get upset about. Even though Uber made a strong case for why the data is valuable...not so they can know where John Doe is 20 minutes after his ride, but to aggregate information on the behavior patterns of demographics using Uber, to better place drivers in the future, to make the service even more reliable. Are people already not even impressed when they pick up their phone needing a ride, and there is a Uber 5 minutes away? Heck, I'm still pretty impressed.

    3. How is the Hell app anything but brilliant? Assuming it is using publicly available information and they are not hacking Lyft to get the data.

    4. I'm unclear how Uber could possibly "not have permission to operate" anywhere. What government bureaucrat is sitting on that? Well, obviously the ones they refuse service to.

    5. "People within the company have also been accused of stalking journalists, celebrities, and ex-lovers." This is not a company policy or practice so it just a meaningless slander when voiced like this in the context of company doings.

    I don't really know why I'm defending Uber here...maybe because I see them as one of the few actual good ideas to come along in the last decade, and I can smell a media smear campaign from a mile away.
    1) Apple typically don't make API not work the exact same time they deprecate the API. Theres a warning. The reason for this is older apps will, when the new OS is launched, be using that API and they would fail to work or crash if it stopped working.
    2)  Thats all fine but do it legally, ask the user, allow the data to be wiped if the user wipes the phone. If it is annoymised data that should not matter.
    3) it violates the California Invasion of Privacy Act and the Federal Wiretap Act
    4) plenty of cities regulate taxi services. 
    5) yes, that one seems a bit odd as a complaint. 

    I use Hailo, less of the march to the bottom, more confidence that the driver knows his stuff. 
    neo-tech
  • Reply 5 of 15
    linkmanlinkman Posts: 901member
    I looked on the AI article and on Techcrunch (no subscription to The Information), but I still fail to understand how Uber got Lyft drivers (or got into Lyft's servers) to run this app/tracking/whatever. Can someone explain?
    douglas baileylostkiwiwatto_cobraMetriacanthosaurus
  • Reply 6 of 15
    gatorguygatorguy Posts: 20,442member

    "Uber first created a bunch of fake Lyft rider accounts and spoofed their locations. They’d then get information about multiple nearest available drivers and eventually see how many Lyft drivers were available for rides at any given time across a city, as well as where they were and how much trips would cost.

    It gets better (or worse, depending on how you look at this): Uber was able to pick up a persistent numbered ID that was tied to each individual driver when they were gathering information about rides available nearby.

    It used those to figure out drivers’ habits, such as when in the day and week they drove for Lyft and, by matching their location data with that of Uber’s drivers, it could figure out which of them drove for both services, and then attempt to lure them away from Lyft by offering special bonuses when they hit a certain number of rides per week."

    douglas baileyskippingrockanome
  • Reply 7 of 15
    asdasd said:
    4. I'm unclear how Uber could possibly "not have permission to operate" anywhere. What government bureaucrat is sitting on that? Well, obviously the ones they refuse service to.
    4) plenty of cities regulate taxi services. 
    Not just cities, but states as well. In NYC, Uber has to deal with the Taxi and Limousine Commission. In the rest of New York state, Albany has kept ridesharing services from operating, only finally passing the bill to allow them last week.
  • Reply 8 of 15
    maestro64maestro64 Posts: 4,520member
    I have read many driver who use both service tend to use a different phone for each app. They would have both app running at the same time and when they got a ride they would close out of one of the apps. If people were doing this not sure how Uber was actually collecting data. The things Uber does like this will call too much attention to them at some people the government will step on them to prove a point. Even if what they may have been doing is not illegal the government does not like when companies play games like this. Ask Microsoft what happens when you do not allow other software to stall or remove your built in software.
  • Reply 9 of 15
    jcdinkinsjcdinkins Posts: 114member
    Fatman said:
    Kalanivk is a border line criminal, and just a bad human being. Now that I posted that comment I probably will never be able to hail an Uber ride again.
    I'm sure you've seen the video of an Uber driver and him getting into it.  He's in the back seat when the driver starts complaining that it's impossible to make money driving for Uber.  They get into it.  The (awesome) driver doesn't back down.  Kalanivk finally gets his toys out of his sandbox and goes to play somewhere else.  It's on youtube and rather old so I figured you may have seen it.  I don't like the guy either he's a spoiled brat.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 10 of 15
    Rayz2016Rayz2016 Posts: 4,563member
    How does Uber vet its drivers?
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 11 of 15
    plovellplovell Posts: 795member
    Rayz2016 said:
    How does Uber vet its drivers?
    Not very effectively.
  • Reply 12 of 15
    Rayz2016Rayz2016 Posts: 4,563member
    plovell said:
    Rayz2016 said:
    How does Uber vet its drivers?
    Not very effectively.
    Probably not, but if they need some sort of license to operate then don't they need to vet the drivers. 
  • Reply 13 of 15
    badmonkbadmonk Posts: 783member
    Uber is a brillant idea but it seems like just a matter of time before they live stream a murder.
  • Reply 14 of 15
    I like the included screenshot. In Austin, Uber and Lyft both packed up shop and left town!
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