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Uber Files — What They Reveal About the Company’s Operations in India

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  • Uber files have revealed how the ride-hailing giant played around loopholes and regulations in key global markets to expand its presence.
  • The files contain 124,000 internal emails, text messages and internal documents from Uber.
  • The Uber files also revealed that the company has an internal tactic called the “kill switch” to escape government raids.

Uber has managed to disrupt the entire car journey industry in ten years and has become the lifeline for several cities, even in India. The company’s extensive transportation network has made travel much easier, but it may not have taken the straightest route to get there, leaked internal documents have revealed.

A series of documents and posts dubbed the “Uber Files” have revealed how the ride-hailing giant took advantage of regulatory loopholes in key global markets to expand its presence. The files contain 124,000 internal emails, text messages and internal documents from within Uber.

The files were obtained by The Guardian and shared with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) and a global consortium of editors. The leaked data covers the period between 2013 and 2017. The documents were:
approached by the Indian Express.

Here’s What Uber Files Revealed About Its Indian Operations

Shifting blame for driver misconduct

A female passenger was raped by the driver in an Uber taxi in New Delhi in December 2014. Documents show that the company is blaming the “flawed” Indian licensing system that skipped background checks on drivers and allowed the accused to commit the rape.

“It is important that we show compassion and express our willingness to develop a longer-term solution to end this pandemic of violence against women in India,” Jordan Condo, Asia’s head of government policy, wrote. senior management of the company. † Several members of the leadership responded with ways to upgrade the system and maintain a country-by-country record on background checks for both licensed and unlicensed drivers.

In this email thread, Mark MacGann (then Uber’s Head of Public Policy for Europe and Middle East) and Niall Wass (then Uber’s Senior Vice President for Europe, Middle East and Africa) blame the Indian authorities.

“We are currently in crisis talks and the media is flaring up… The Indian driver was indeed licensed and the weakness/flaw seems to be in the local licensing system… the view in the US is that we can expect questions in our markets on the issue of background checks, in light of what happened in India,” MacGann said.

Meanwhile, Wass wrote: “We had done what was necessary in terms of Indian regulations. However, it is clear that the checks required by a driver to obtain a commercial license from the authorities are now proving to be insufficient as it appears that the accused also had previous rape allegations, which the Delhi police check did not identify (in what is called a ‘character certificate’).’).”

Critical elements of the security feature it introduced after the rape incident are still not in place. The Indian Express report noted that Uber has yet to integrate the “panic button” that every Uber cab should have with the systems of the Delhi Police and the State Transport Department.

The ‘kill switch’

The Uber files too
revealed that Uber has an internal tactic called the “kill switch” to evade government raids. At the time of a raid, in each office, IT personnel were instructed to cut off all access to the company’s main data system. This move prevented authorities from collecting any evidence against the company.

India was one of the countries where Uber used the ‘Kill Switch’ tactic as it faced regulatory issues with the Reserve Bank of India and government agencies such as the
Tax and Customs AdministrationConsumer Courts and Income Tax.

The data shows 13 cases between 2014-2016 where the ‘Kill Switch’ was used in Amsterdam, Montreal, Hong Kong, Budapest, Lyon and Paris. The reference to India comes in confidential emails dated February 10, 2015 – two months after the New Delhi rape incident and the subsequent seven-month ban on the service.

The emails titled ‘Uber Belgium/Special Tax Inspectors’ in the context of expected tax raids in Belgium refer to how the company blocked Indian authorities from accessing its data.

“What we have done in India is let the city team be as cooperative as possible and BV (the company in the Netherlands) take matters into their own hands. Whenever the local team was called to provide the information, we cut them off from the system, making it practically impossible for them to provide information despite their willingness to do so. At the same time, we continued to instruct the authorities to talk to BV representatives instead. Not sure if that works here as they have telco info, but that took us a few months there,” Uber executive Rob van der Woude wrote in the email thread.

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