All you need to know about the shocking disclosures in the “Uber Files”

The owners of the UK's Daily Mail, France's Les Echos, Italy's La Repubblica and L'Espresso, Germany's Die Welt and Bild, and The Times of India were explicitly targeted by Uber.

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Joseph P Chacko
Joseph P Chacko
Joseph P. Chacko is the publisher of Frontier India. He holds an M.B.A in International Business. Books: Author: Foxtrot to Arihant: The Story of Indian Navy's Submarine Arm; Co Author : Warring Navies - India and Pakistan. *views are Personal

The “Uber Files,” a series of more than 124,000 internal documents, have revealed important information on the operations and strategy of the ride-hailing platform’s international expansion. The documents, which The Guardian was able to secure and subsequently share with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ), cover the period from 2013 to 2017, when Travis Kalanick, a co-founder of Uber and its former CEO, led the business. As Uber hurriedly attempted to go worldwide, the confidential material included texts, emails, corporate presentations, and other papers. The disclosures demonstrate that senior management at Uber was aware of the error of their ways. One executive jokingly referred to the organization as “pirates,” while another said out loud, “We’re simply f**king illegal,” according to the Uber Files. And even then, it’s merely the beginning.

Following the breach, here is all you need to know about Uber.

Mark MacGann – the whistleblower

Former Uber head lobbyist for Europe, the Middle East, and Africa Mark MacGann acknowledged on Monday that he was the source of the information leak. In an interview with The Guardian, he said he regretted being part of a group of individuals who manipulated the facts to acquire the faith of drivers, customers, and political leaders. MacGann acknowledged being partly responsible for assisting Uber in getting governments to alter the rules governing taxis. He said it is his responsibility to speak up and assist lawmakers and government officials in putting some serious wrongs right. Morally he had no choice in the matter, he added.

No matter what the cost

More than 2,100 French cab drivers protested against Uber in the streets of Paris in January 2016. Uber capitalised on the storyline when Uber drivers were the targets of violence. Kalanick wrote to senior Uber officials that the company has 50,000 drivers, so they won’t and can’t do anything. At the time Uber senior management was debating sending its drivers to the protests. Kalanick wrote he believed it is worthwhile as violence “guarantee(s) success”. 

The organisation reportedly intended to exploit the violence to pressure France and other nations to reform their regulatory frameworks. Drivers were urged to write letters to the French president and prime minister after Kalanick’s statement in order to support the preservation of their employment.

Using media clout

The leaked records showed that Uber sought out influential media figures as part of its effort to become worldwide, using their clout to gain influence with authorities. The company invited its media investors to advocate on its favour, offering others sizable shares in exchange for doing the same. According to the Guardian, Uber explicitly targeted the owners of the Daily Mail in the UK, Les Echos in France, La Repubblica and L’Espresso in Italy, Die Welt and Bild in Germany, and the Times of India.

IT Kill Switch

According to the leaked documents, Uber used a contentious strategy known as the “kill switch” to block access to its IT systems and critical data during workplace raids in at least six different countries. Kill switch was used atleaset 12 times in France, the Netherlands, India, Belgium, Hungary, and Romania.

Uber responds

In response to the ICIJ findings, Uber released a statement highlighting the changes made to the business since Dara Khosrowshahi took over as CEO. The company said it meant it when it said Uber is a different company now. According to Jill Hazelbaker, Uber’s SVP of marketing and public relations, 90% of the company’s current workers joined after [Khosrowshahi] was named CEO. The firm also said it offers no justification for the errors of former executives. What happened was inconsistent with the company’s current principles. Hazelbaker said that he would prefer that the public evaluates the company based on the work they have carried out over the last five years and the work they want to do in the future. The company made no addition comments.


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