In an effort to crush its competition, Uber built an app called Hell to track Lyft drivers’ locations and even find out which of them also drove for both platforms across the US, reports The Information.
According to a source who wished to remain anonymous, the app was used between 2014 and 2016 to help Uber lure drivers away from Lyft. The existence of Hell was kept secret, save for a few top executives at Uber and a small number of people working on the program.
It’s crafty as hell: Uber first created a bunch of fake Lyft rider accounts and spoofed their locations. They’d then get information about multiple nearest available drivers and eventually see how many Lyft drivers were available for rides at any given time across a city, as well as where they were and how much trips would cost.
It gets better (or worse, depending on how you look at this): Uber was able to pick up a persistent numbered ID that was tied to each individual driver when they were gathering information about rides available nearby.
It used those to figure out drivers’ habits, such as when in the day and week they drove for Lyft and, by matching their location data with that of Uber’s drivers, it could figure out which of them drove for both services, and then attempt to lure them away from Lyft by offering special bonuses when they hit a certain number of rides per week.
If the report about Hell is true, it’d shine yet another light on Uber’s unsavory business practices. Last month, The New York Times noted that Uber used a tool to help it avoid passengers from government agencies that it believed were investigating the company; in January, the company was fined $20 million for misleading drivers about how much they could earn on the platform.
As if that wasn’t enough, Uber is also being investigated over claims of sexism within its organization after a former female engineer at the company blogged about her experience there. Last month, CEO Travis Kalanick’s ex-girlfriend said that he and a bunch of execs visited an escort bar in South Korea, along with a female colleague who felt uncomfortable seeing how ‘degrading’ the setup at the establishment was.
Things are clearly not going well at Uber. In March, it saw its president Jeff Jones resign after just six months on the job, citing differences in the approach to leadership there.
According to lawyers who spoke to The Information, the existence of Hell could see Uber face the heat in court, as Lyft could potentially sue the company for unfair business practices, misappropriation of trade secrets, and a civil violation of the federal Computer Fraud and Abuse Act because of how Uber allegedly accessed information from its rival.
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