Uber's having another rough week: From tracking iPhones to Bombay HC suit

Uber's having another rough week: From tracking iPhones to Bombay HC suit

Uber's having another rough week: From tracking iPhones to Bombay HC suit

Ride-hailing app Uber is having a tough time these days. From battling in the Bombay High Court to news of Apple almost throwing Uber out of its app store, here's a quick look at Uber's week from hell:

  • Last week, Uber went head to head with Google's Waymo over a lawsuit filed in January (LINK),
  • On Tuesday, 18 April, there was a one-day strike in India's capital and other cities (LINK).
  • Then, on Saturday, Uber filed a suit against taxi owners and drivers associations. Specifically, Uber approached the Bombay High Court seeking Rs 12 crore in damages. This was for "harming its reputation and livelihood of drivers by protesting against the company".
  • On Monday, 24 April, the Bombay High Court passed an interim order. This order was to restrain the associations from stopping the drivers from carrying out their duties.
  • Finally, news came out in the international media that Uber was on the verge of being thrown out from Apple's App Store by Apple CEO Tim Cook back in 2015.

Uber's suit against tax-owner groups

Uber India's Rs 12 crore suit named Sangharsh Tourist Chalak Malak Sangh (an association of taxi owners and driver), Action Committee of Maharashtra against Ola and Uber, Mumbai Vikas Foundation, All Drivers Welfare Association, and Maharashtra Tourist Permit Union as defendants.

“The defendants are deliberate, unlawfully and wrongfully resorting to violence and intimidation under the garb of strikes and protests in Mumbai and thereby restraining drivers associated with the plaintiff’s mobile App from operating and pursuing livelihood,” the suit read.The suit goes on to claim that the drivers associations had been engaging in 'actively inciting' Uber drivers to go on strike. “The defendants have been hampering the legitimate business of plaintiffs (Uber) by interfering in their operations quite extensively across the city of Mumbai. They have been indulging in threats to the driver partners of Uber, in the event they willfully continue to drive using the Uber App,” the suit alleged.

The suit goes on to claim that the drivers associations had been engaging in 'actively inciting' Uber drivers to go on strike. “The defendants have been hampering the legitimate business of plaintiffs (Uber) by interfering in their operations quite extensively across the city of Mumbai. They have been indulging in threats to the driver partners of Uber, in the event they willfully continue to drive using the Uber App,” the suit alleged.“The mobile devices of the driver-partners of Uber were forcibly snatched and their vehicles were damaged. The defendants even forced the passengers out... (and) verbally abused, physically assaulted and threatened the driver-partners,” it added.

“The mobile devices of the driver-partners of Uber were forcibly snatched and their vehicles were damaged. The defendants even forced the passengers out... (and) verbally abused, physically assaulted and threatened the driver-partners,” it added.Specifically, the suit referred to the recent protest held by the taxi owners and drivers associations at Azad Maidan last month.

Specifically, the suit referred to the recent protest held by the taxi owners and drivers associations at Azad Maidan last month.Uber, on its part, claims 830 incidents of harassment of its driver partners or their passengers.

Uber, on its part, claims 830 incidents of harassment of its driver partners or their passengers.The suit, which was filed last month, had its hearing in the Bombay High Court on Monday, 24 April, in which the judge passed an interim order saying that Uber cabs cannot be stopped from plying.

The suit, which was filed last month, had its hearing in the Bombay High Court on Monday, 24 April, in which the judge passed an interim order saying that Uber cabs cannot be stopped from plying.Heading the bench, Justice S J Kathawalla said, “I am prima-facie of the opinion that, injunction orders, restraining defendants are required to be passed,”

Heading the bench, Justice S J Kathawalla said, “I am prima-facie of the opinion that, injunction orders, restraining defendants are required to be passed,”

Tim Cook vs Travis Kalanick

Back in 2015, Apple CEO Tim Cook threatened Uber CEO Travis Kalanick by almost removing the ride-sharing company's app from App Store. Cook almost removed the app after learning that Uber had found a way to identify individual iPhones, and even long after the app was deleted from the user's phone.Cook and Kalanick held face-to-face meetings, according to New York Times sources (https://www.nytimes.com/2017/04/23/technology/travis-kalanick-pushes-uber-and-himself-to-the-precipice.html), where the former called out the latter. Uber was on the backfoot for two reasons. First, that Uber was violating iOS app privacy guidelines. Second, beyond violating it, they were also trying to cover it up.

Cook and Kalanick held face-to-face meetings, according to New York Times sources (https://www.nytimes.com/2017/04/23/technology/travis-kalanick-pushes-uber-and-himself-to-the-precipice.html), where the former called out the latter. Uber was on the backfoot for two reasons. First, that Uber was violating iOS app privacy guidelines. Second, beyond violating it, they were also trying to cover it up.According to the report, Uber had been 'fingerprinting' iPhones with permanent identities. This practice is strictly prohibited by Apple. Uber had geofenced the Apple headquarters in Cupertino essentially changing the code so employees wouldn't see it. This was done to prevent drivers from creating fake profiles and accepting rides from them. Furthermore, Uber did its best to hide the 'tracking' from App Store reviewers.

According to the report, Uber had been 'fingerprinting' iPhones with permanent identities. This practice is strictly prohibited by Apple. Uber had geofenced the Apple headquarters in Cupertino essentially changing the code so employees wouldn't see it. This was done to prevent drivers from creating fake profiles and accepting rides from them. Furthermore, Uber did its best to hide the 'tracking' from App Store reviewers."Mr. Kalanick was shaken by Mr. Cook’s scolding, according to a person who saw him after the meeting," reads the NYT piece. The practice ended shortly after. Uber being off the App Store would be a huge blow to the company, especially in the USA.

"Mr. Kalanick was shaken by Mr. Cook’s scolding, according to a person who saw him after the meeting," reads the NYT piece. The practice ended shortly after. Uber being off the App Store would be a huge blow to the company, especially in the USA.

Uber's statement to the media

“We absolutely do not track individual users or their location if they’ve deleted the app,” an Uber spokesperson said.


“As the New York Times story notes towards the very end, this is a typical way to prevent fraudsters from loading Uber onto a stolen phone, putting in a stolen credit card, taking an expensive ride and then wiping the phone—over and over again. Similar techniques are also used for detecting and blocking suspicious logins to protect our users' accounts. Being able to recognize known bad actors when they try to get back onto our network is an important security measure for both Uber and our users,” they added.


For context, here's Will Strafach looking at an old build of Uber to find "shenanigans" at the company.

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