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124,000 Leaked Documents Reveal How Uber Spread “F**king Illegal” Ride-Sharing Globally

A treasure trove of more than 124,000 confidential documents known as “The Uber Files” reveals the inside story of how Uber aggressively pushed into international markets

The unprecedented leak to The Guardian and shared with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) and other media outlets shows how the ride-sharing service wooed prime ministers, presidents, billionaires, and oligarchs for access to their home markets between 2013-17.

The files cover Uber’s operations across 40 countries during a period in which the company became a global behemoth, bulldozing its cab-hailing service into many of the cities in which it still operates today. — The Guardian

Uber’s history of disregarding local laws and regulations and even conducting law-breaking activities were detailed in the cache of files containing emails, iMessage, and WhatsApp messages, including conversations with co-founder Travis Kalanick and top-level execs.

In a 2014 message to a coworker, Uber’s former head of global communications, Nairi Hourdajian, reportedly stated: “Sometimes we have problems because, well, we’re just fucking illegal.”

In an exchange between Kalanick and execs, the co-founder overlooked concerns about sending French Uber drivers to demonstrate against the taxi industry. “I think it’s worth it … Violence guarantee[s] success,” Kalanick wrote to colleagues.

There were also messages between Kalanick and Emmanuel Macron, who helped the company into the French market — it was noted that Macron, then economy minister, secretly brokered deals with opponents in the French cabinet to allow the company to disrupt Europe’s taxi industry.

In 2016, Kalanick met with then-U.S. Vice President Biden at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. He messaged his staff about Biden’s tardiness: “I’ve had my people let him know that every minute late he is, is one less minute he will have with me.”

Detailed in The Uber Files, company execs held 100 meetings worldwide in 17 countries.

The documents reveal for the first time Uber’s $90 million-a-year lobbying and public relations push to disrupt the global taxi industry.

In response to the data dump, Uber spokesperson Jill Hazelbaker admitted mistakes were made when Kalanick ran the company. However, his replacement, Dara Khosrowshahi, has been “tasked with transforming every aspect of how Uber operates” and has “installed the rigorous controls and compliance necessary to operate as a public company.”

“We have not and will not make excuses for past behavior that is clearly not in line with our present values. Instead, we ask the public to judge us by what we’ve done over the last five years and what we will do in the years to come,” Hazelbaker said.

One document revealed Uber developed a “kill switch” so that when authorities raided offices around the world, law enforcement seeking information on the company’s practices would be cut from access to the company’s data systems, thus preventing evidence gathering.

2 Comments
  • J Hamilton McMenamy says:

    Uber is the best thing to happen to travelers in many decades. Those who oppose Uber are NOT the users of Uber. We have taken many trips, before and after Uber. Uber makes travel 10 times more pleasant not to have to deal with taxi stands and blocks-long walks to bus stations–especially at night. I hope the attack on Uber is unsuccessful. It is obviously the sum of the sacred cow enterprises, like taxies in every city, who are against easily acquired and safe rides.

  • James Daniel says:

    Another way to look at Uber is that it brought a new business model to a field that is over regulated and rife with corruption through the big business/big government marriage.

    New York City so restricts the number of cab licenses that it cost $1,000,000 each to buy a medallion to operate a cab in the city, effectively cutting off entrepreneurs and small businessmen who wanted to get into the business. Less competition equals higher prices for consumers if the cab companies services and forces people into the subway/public transportation network. It was a win/win situation for government and business until Uber upset the applecart by figuring out how to work around the regulations and get a foothold in the markets. In response, many of the jurisdictions started targeting Uber eat al specifically with new regulations (mostly at the request of existing cab businesses who benefitted immensely from the status quo).

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