Lyft Drivers Sue Uber Over Alleged Hell Spyware: Complaint Details How Uber Gained Competitive Edge Through Illegal Tracking


It's been a rough year for Uber. Its media firestorms, made more intense by controversy after controversy, sometimes calms down, but then explodes all of a sudden. This time, it has exploded again, with Uber potentially facing a class-action lawsuit.

Former Lyft Driver Files Class-Action Lawsuit Against Uber

A former Lyft driver is now accusing Uber of secretly tracking and spying on Lyft drivers. The claim comes just a few weeks after a flurry of reports exposed the ride-hailing company's "Hell" program, in which Uber, sometime from 2014 to 2016, allegedly tracked the number of available Lyft drivers and their corresponding locations, in addition to which Uber drivers were sidelining for Lyft.

Uber Reportedly Tracked Lyft Drivers Using Its Hell Program

Furthermore, reports say that Uber made bogus Lyft rider accounts and used it to collect data on drivers. Also, the company allegedly tracked the movements of individual Lyft drivers. If drivers were discovered to also work for Uber, the company tried to foist special incentives on them so as to convince them to leave Lyft.

The plaintiff, Michael Gonzalez, alleges that he drove for Lyft during Uber's plight of tracking activities. He's seeking $5 million in the class-action lawsuit, which was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California. It claims that by underhandedly tracking Lyft drivers, Uber violated the California Invasion of Privacy Act, in addition to the Federal Wiretap Act.

Uber had denied parts about "privileged dispatch" and "dual-epping" as explained in the allegations, but it had neither denied nor confirmed the existence of the program. Given the nature of the lawsuit, however, the plaintiff may solicit information from Uber during the alleged period of tracking, which could prove whether Uber facilitated such a program or not. The lawsuit includes four counts of privacy violations.

Uber's Series Of Troubles And Controversies

This year has been a very trying time for Uber, to make an understatement. While it has faced a number of problems in the past, the company had so far been able to surmount such trials, but 2017 is a different year entirely.

The first round of troubles came when Kalanick joined President Donald Trump's advisory council, causing a public outrage. Then Twitter users started a #DeleteUber campaign when it was found that Uber was reportedly exploiting the controversial immigration ban for business gains.

As if those woes weren't enough firestorms of their own, a former engineer then published a scathing blog post that detailed Uber's awfully sexist workplace culture, wherein instances of reported sexual harassment were ignored, downplayed, frowned upon, and even used to threaten the complainants' jobs.

Still, it wasn't over. In addition to the chain reaction of stories caused by the former engineer's publicized tell-all, a video of Kalanick heatedly arguing with an Uber driver also made the rounds not long after, featuring his brash personality in full view, a quality many publications ascribe him.

Most recently, it was reported that Kalanick received a stern talking-to from Apple CEO Tim Cook after its iPhone app was caught fingerprinting individual devices, giving the company the ability to identify each device, regardless of whether the app had been deleted or not.

On top of everything, Uber is also battling one of the world's top tech firms in an intellectual property theft case, in which Google's Waymo unit alleges that Uber stole plans, blueprints, and documents that detailed Waymo's self-driving technology.

The class-action lawsuit is simply another concrete brick atop the pile pinning down Uber. We'll report accordingly when we hear more on this story.

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