Uber used secret system to lock down computers in police raids
Former Uber employees have confirmed the company routinely used a software system called Ripley to lock computers from tax investigators between 2015 and 2016.
The software, named after Sigourney Weaver’s character in the Alien franchise, would lock down computers to prevent the police or anyone outside the company from accessing data. It was developed as the “unexpected visitor protocol” after a police raid in Brussels seized the company’s financial, payments and worker documents.
The three people with knowledge of the programme have said that in some cases the use of Ripley was justified since the police sometimes barged in without warrants, although the software was still kept a close secret.
Ripley was used in 2015 and 2016 in overseas offices including in Canada, the Netherlands, Belgium, France and Hong Kong, according to Bloomberg.
In one case the software was used to prevent Canadian tax investigators from collecting evidence on possibly violated tax laws. When the officials arrived at the office in Montreal, the headquarters in San Francisco logged everyone off their computers.
Uber has spoken out about the issue and said the tool is very common among companies who wish to protect their information.
“Like every company with offices around the world, we have security procedures in place to protect corporate and customer data,” said an Uber spokeswoman. “When it comes to government investigations, it’s our policy to cooperate with all valid searches and requests for data.”
It’s not the first time that Uber has developed tools to evade officials, some of which are under investigation in the US.
Uber has been using a tool called Greyball, now under investigation, that ensured drivers wouldn’t pick up police officers in cities where it wasn’t respecting regulations.