Uber Ripley Program: Company Shut Down Computers To Block Law Enforcement Access

Sigourney Weaver as Warrant Officer Ripley in the hit film Alien 3 - the inspiration for Uber's latest software tool.

Uber reportedly trained its employees working in foreign offices to utilize Ripley any time police came knocking at their door.

Like managers at Uber's hundreds of offices overseas, they'd been trained to page a number that alerted specially trained staff at company headquarters in San Francisco.

Albert Gidari, director of privacy at Stanford Law School's Center for Internet & Society added that companies often protect networks and computers against dawn raids where the scope of authority is in question and the data to be seized is in another jurisdiction.

Like every company with offices around the world, we have security procedures in place to protect corporate and customer data.

While many companies shut down computers during police raids to give managers time to read police warrants, Uber's system differed in that it was used at least a dozen times, according to Bloomberg's sources.

Despite the report that it had a special hotline set up specifically to prevent law enforcement from gaining access to data it had a warrant for, Uber insists that it has no issue with participating in government investigations.

The Justice Department also is investigating whether Uber illegally used software to track drivers of its rival Lyft. The company also said its policy is to cooperate with all valid searches and requests for data.

Under the program, which was discontinued past year, Uber created fake Lyft customer accounts to seek rides, allowing it to track nearby Lyft drivers and ride prices, the Journal said.

Managers at Uber offices are reportedly trained to use it. Their rides would be cancelled or would never arrive.

Uber's other known anti-regulator projects include Greyball, which was created to identify regulators and law enforcement, in order serve up a fake version of the app where drivers would constantly cancel rides.

The company said it removed all Greyball tags in Portland back in April 2015 and has not used them since.

The European Union's top court has ruled that ride-hailing service Uber should be regulated like a taxi company, a decision that could change the way it functions across the continent. She said Uber's guidance to employees bars use of the tool where it isn't legal.

  • Eleanor Harrison