Speed Reads

Uber files: what ‘unprecedented leak’ revealed

Investigation exposes extent of government lobbying by Silicon Valley start-up between 2013 and 2017

A massive leak of more than 120,000 documents has revealed how Uber exploited its drivers, lobbied governments and breached laws as it expanded its global operations between 2013 and 2017.

The “unprecedented” leak includes emails, texts and WhatsApp messages sent between the taxi service’s executives during the five-year period. They show “the ethically questionable practices that fuelled the company’s transformation into one of Silicon Valley’s most famous exports”, said The Guardian

The “ruthless business methods” of Uber’s “controversial boss” at the time, Travis Kalanick, were already widely known, said the BBC. “But for the first time the files give a unique inside view of the lengths it went to in achieving its goals.”

The company invested in “a $90m-a-year lobbying and public relations effort” to recruit “friendly politicians” and “disrupt Europe’s taxi industry”, the broadcaster continued. While French taxi drivers participated in violent protests against the start-up’s operations, their president, Emmanuel Macron, was in direct communication with Kalanick, and “appears to have gone to extraordinary lengths to help Uber”, said The Guardian. 

The leak reveals that the company also “used ‘stealth technology’ to fend off government investigations” with a “kill switch” deployed to “cut access to Uber servers” and stop authorities “grabbing evidence” during raids. In one message an executive joked that “we’re just fucking illegal”. 

Responding to the allegations, a spokesperson for Uber said that the “mistakes” made by the firm prior to 2017 had been reported on at length, culminating in “one of the most infamous reckonings in the history of corporate America”. Kalanick’s successor, Dara Khosrowshahi, was “tasked with transforming every aspect of how Uber operates” and it is “a different company today”. 

The Guardian shared the documents with 40 media outlets through the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists. More than 180 journalists in 29 countries are expected to publish further reports about Uber.

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