Thousands of leaked Uber documents show extreme steps company allegedly took to expand aggressively

Jul 11, 2022, 12:36 PM
FILE - The Uber logo is displayed on a car on March 22, 2019 in San Francisco, California. Uber Tec...
FILE - The Uber logo is displayed on a car on March 22, 2019 in San Francisco, California. Uber Technologies Inc. announced that it has selected the New York Stock Exchange for its much anticipated initial public offering that could be one of the top five IPOs in history. The listing could value the ride sharing company at over $120 billion. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
(Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

(CNN) — Hundreds of thousands of leaked Uber documents obtained by The Guardian and shared with a consortium of news outlets show how during its most aggressive period of growth, the ride-hailing company reportedly employed secret technology to thwart police investigations, sought favors from high-ranking government officials and even perceived a silver lining in possible violent clashes between its drivers and taxicab operators.

The reports by members of the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, of which CNN was not a part, renew global scrutiny of Uber’s most controversial days from 2013 to 2017 — a period the company has attempted to move past in recent years with new leadership. Under then-CEO and cofounder Travis Kalanick, Uber openly tussled with regulators and taxi drivers amid a cutthroat campaign of worldwide expansion.

In 2016, during mass anti-Uber demonstrations by taxi operators in Paris, Kalanick had been discussing holding a rally of Uber riders and drivers in the city, according to The Washington Post. Kalanick is said to have privately suggested that any violent backlash to the potential event would be “worth it” and would “guarantee success” for the company, according to the leaked documents. The leaked documents reportedly show how Uber appeared to capitalize on attacks against its drivers more generally, by citing them “to secure meetings with politicians and push for regulatory changes,” the Post reported.

In a wider statement to the consortium responding to a number of the reports, Devon Spurgeon, a spokesperson for Kalanick, said the former CEO “never suggested that Uber should take advantage of violence at the expense of rider safety.” Spurgeon confirmed the statement to CNN Business but declined to comment beyond it.

Uber also reportedly used a “kill switch” to prevent company data from falling into the hands of law enforcement during numerous police raids in various countries, according to The Guardian, on a much wider basis than was previously known. The kill switch was reportedly deployed in six countries, including France, the Netherlands, Belgium, India, Hungary and Romania, severing connections between Uber’s computers in its local offices from the company’s main cloud network. Spurgeon’s statement to ICIJ said use of the tool had been approved by Uber’s legal and regulatory teams and that it was never “designed or implemented to ‘obstruct justice.'”

As part of its worldwide lobbying effort, the BBC reported, Uber cultivated close ties with Emmanuel Macron, who at the time served as France’s economic minister and met at least four times with Kalanick. The pair reportedly developed a first-name-basis relationship and Macron told Kalanick he could help make changes to French law that would be favorable to the company. The BBC cited a statement from Macron’s spokesperson saying his job at the time “led him to meet and interact with many companies engaged in the sharp shift … in the service sector, which had to be facilitated by unlocking administrative and regulatory hurdles.”

And in an ultimately unsuccessful effort to expand into Russia, Uber and Kalanick tried to cozy up to oligarchs and allies of Russian President Vladimir Putin, according to the ICIJ. While the leaked documents do not suggest Uber violated US sanctions, The Washington Post said, “almost everyone with whom Uber allied then is under sanction for their alleged ties to Putin by US or European authorities.” Spurgeon’s statement to ICIJ said that during a 2016 visit to Russia organized by Uber’s policy and business development teams, Kalanick “acted at all times lawfully and with the clear approval and authorization of Uber’s legal team.”

Kalanick resigned as CEO of Uber in 2017 after months of PR crises, including over a tool it reportedly built to help drivers dodge law enforcement in cities like Portland, Oregon, where it was not allowed to operate. Uber has since tried to turn a new leaf, replacing Kalanick with Dara Khosrowshahi, the former CEO of Expedia.

In a statement posted on its website, Uber distanced itself from its “mistakes prior to 2017,” which the company acknowledged “culminated in one of the most infamous reckonings in the history of corporate America.”

“We have not and will not make excuses for past behavior that is clearly not in line with our present values,” Uber spokesperson Jill Hazelbaker said in the statement, adding that 90% of Uber’s current employees arrived to the company after the leadership change.

But the leaked documents show that despite Uber’s attempts to move on from its past, the company may continue to be haunted by it far into the future.

The-CNN-Wire™ & © 2022 Cable News Network, Inc., a WarnerMedia Company. All rights reserved.

KSL 5 TV Live

Top Stories


For the first time ever, Americans are watching more streaming TV than cable, according to a report...
Jordan Valinsky, CNN Business

For the first time, streaming is more watched than cable TV

For the first time ever, Americans are watching more streaming TV than cable, according to a report from Nielsen.
11 hours ago
The man accused of stabbing author Salman Rushdie in New York state has been indicted by a grand ju...
Nicki Brown, Jason Hanna and Holly Yan, CNN

Suspect in Salman Rushdie’s stabbing pleads not guilty to attempted murder, assault

The man accused of stabbing award-winning author Salman Rushdie and injuring another speaker on stage in New York state last week pleaded not guilty Thursday to charges of second-degree attempted murder and second-degree assault.
1 day ago
phone screen displaying a list of received Scam Risk phone calls...
Brian Fung, CNN Business

A monumental case looks to crack open the world of auto-warranty robocalls

No sentence in the English language may be more infuriating than the following 12 words: "We have been trying to reach you about your car's extended warranty."
1 day ago
(National Weather Service)...

Areas of flash flooding likely in southern Utah, Southwest US through the weekend

The desert Southwest, an area dealing with long-term megadrought, is bracing for a moderate risk of extreme rainfall which could lead to flash flooding as we head into the weekend.
1 day ago
Climbers ascending Mount Kilimanjaro can now document their ascents in real-time on Instagram, foll...
Nimi Princewill, CNN

Africa’s highest peak gets fast internet

Climbers ascending Mount Kilimanjaro can now document their ascents in real-time on Instagram, following a recent move by Tanzanian authorities to install high-speed internet around the mountain's slopes.
1 day ago
65-year-old Mona Foster was rescued from her sinking car during the historic flooding and was reuni...
Melanie Johnson

Woman reunited with men who saved her from floodwaters

A 65-year-old woman was rescued from her sinking car during the historic flooding in North County, Missouri, and was reunited with the three men who saved her life.
1 day ago

Sponsored Articles

Types of Computer Malware and Examples...
PC Laptops

5 Nasty Types of Computer Malware and Examples | Everything You Need to Know to Keep Your Computer and Family Safe

Here are the different types of computer malware and examples that could potentially infect your computer.
tips how to quit smoking...

7 Tips How to Quit Smoking | Quitting Smoking Might be One of the Hardest Things You Ever Do but Here’s Where You Can Start

Quitting smoking cigarettes can be incredibly difficult. Here are 7 tips how to quit smoking to help you on your quitting journey.
Photo: Storyblocks...
Blue Stakes of Utah 811

Blue Stakes of Utah 811: 5 Reasons To Call 811 Before You Dig When Working in Your Yard

Call before you dig. Even at home, you could end up with serious injuries or broken utilities just because you didn't call Blue Stakes of Utah 811.
Days of...
Days of '47 Rodeo

TRIVIA: How well do you know your rodeo? Take this quiz before you go to the Days of ’47!

The Utah Days of ’47 Rodeo presented by Zions Bank is a one-of-a-kind Gold Medal Rodeo being held July 20-23, 25 at 7:30 PM. The Days of ’47 Rodeo How well do you know your rodeo trivia? Take the quiz to test your know-all before heading out to the Days of ’47 Rodeo at the […]
cyber security through multi factor authentication setup...
Les Olson IT

How multi factor authentication setup helps companies stay safe

Multi factor authentication (MFA) setup is an important security measure that every company should implement for their workers. It’s also wise to install it for your personal and home accounts.
Lighting Design

Check out these stunning lamps with stained glass shades

Lamps with stained glass shades are statement pieces that are more than simply aesthetic. They also meet a functional requirement: to light up a room.
Thousands of leaked Uber documents show extreme steps company allegedly took to expand aggressively