Uber, the company that created a technology platform using smartphone apps to connect riders with driver-partners in cities all over the world, went public on May 10, 2019.
While most would celebrate the event, including company executives, employees, partners, and investors, the IPO was tainted with scandal. Since its founding, a series of incidences has helped define the thriving business's legacy as one mired in controversy. The range of occurrences includes unethical business strategies, mistreatment of company partners, and even sexual assault allegations.
Its history places Uber at the top of the list of worst managed companies in the United States. The mismanagement also extends, in some cases, abroad. Multiple transgressions, including borderline criminal activity, has created a track record of disregard for its customers and employees. In London, for example, inadequate driver background checks and failure to report serious criminal offenses prompted the Transport for London (TfL) to suspend Uber’s operating license.
Of course, “The buck stops here,” and total responsibility belongs to the top executive, Travis Kalanick, Uber’s former CEO. Under his leadership, the company pushed the limits of sound ethical practices and put peoples’ lives at risk.
Here are twenty sketchy facts about Uber.
20 UberCab Received Its First Cease And Desist Order In 2010
A Cease and Desist Order was issued to UberCab in October 2010 by the San Francisco Metro Transit Authority & the Public Utilities Commission of California for noncompliance with city regulations. Subsequently, Ubercab changed its name to Uber. By 2016, San Francisco had approximately 45,000 Uber drivers, while licensed taxis numbered just 2,026.
19 Horrendous Data Breach Cover-Up In 2016
According to Norton Internet Security, data breaches on a massive scale that have a common occurrence in recent years are difficult to prevent. In 2016 the Yahoo breach exposed 3 billion user accounts, and the Equifax data breach in 2017 revealed information on 145 million Americans. These companies announced cyber threats and advised the public on how to protect their personal information.
Uber chose to coverup their 2016 data breach that impacted 60 million accounts. They admitted to paying programmers $100,000 to destroy the data and keep silent.
18 Lack of Professional Driving Qualifications Means Higher Risk
The requirements to be a taxi driver in the U.S. vary by state and city, but high standards are everywhere. As an example, in San Francisco, cab drivers must have a driver’s license, demonstrate proof of residency and be in good health with proper hygiene. English is required, they must complete taxi driving training and a clean criminal record is mandatory.
By comparison, Uber drivers are only required to have a car in working order.
17 Uber’s Faulty Background Check System
Although Uber claims the company performs a federal and multi-state criminal background check on their drivers, NBC4 discovered differently. During their three-month investigation, they uncovered several cases of drivers with criminal records. These individuals had been convicted of assault and battery, burglary, and reckless driving.
NBC4 also asked an ex-con with a twenty-year criminal record including assault, burglary, and drug possession, to file an application with Uber. She agreed to a background check, and four weeks later was approved as a driver.
16 Operation Greyball Program Obstruction Of Justice
Uber developed a software tool called Greyball that is used by the company to identify and deny service to selected riders. These may be law enforcement officials or any riders whom Uber suspects of violating its terms of service.
Greyball cripples the user’s Uber app preventing it from functioning correctly. The program blocks law enforcement officials from verifying Uber’s compliance with local city and state codes, and it tracks investigations.
15 Ride Prices Soared During Hurricane Sandy In 2012
Price gauging laws that exist in more than thirty U.S, states pertain to a declared state of emergency. Although the laws apply exclusively to items vital to survival, such as housing, water, and food, most people think that price gouging on any object or service is immoral.
However, Uber didn’t think it was unethical when they doubled their prices in New York City during Hurricane Sandy in 2012.
14 2013 Lawsuit To Recognize Uber Drivers As Employees
In December 2013, current and former Uber drivers from Massachusetts and California filed a lawsuit against the company claiming drivers should be treated as employees, not contract workers. As employees, Uber would be required to pay drivers a minimum wage and provide benefits such as health insurance.
Uber settled the case out of court in 2016 agreeing to pay the drivers $20 million. However, they remained independent contractors.
13 2019 Protests Ahead Of Uber IPO
Before one of the biggest IPOs in the history of the New York Stock Exchange, several hundred drivers assembled in front of Uber’s San Francisco headquarters demanding fair pay, benefits, and greater transparency from the rideshare company.
While Uber drivers were experiencing declining revenue and longer hours, Uber executives, engineers, and investors stood to rake in fortunes from the IPO.
12 Trade Secrets Stolen By Former Google Self-Driving Engineer?
The U.S. attorney’s office indicted former Google self-driving engineer Anthony Levandowski over claims he allegedly stole self-driving car trade secrets and gave them to Uber. The confidential files from Google subsidiary Waymo helped him create an autonomous big-rig entity. Levandowski later sold the company to Uber for an estimated $680 million. The thirty-three charges against Levandowski carry a maximum penalty of ten years in prison and $250,000 each.
11 2017 Uber Pays $20 Million For Lying To Drivers
In 2017, Uber was required to pay $20 million to its drivers in Massachusetts and California to settle a class-action lawsuit that questioned the company’s responsibility to its workers. It claimed Uber was guilty of false advertising, dishonestly inflating the potential earnings to recruit new drivers. Furthermore, over a two-year period in New York, Uber took a larger cut from the driver’s fairs, effectively lowering their income.
10 California Orders Uber To Remove Self-Driving Cars
Self-driving cars have made significant progress in recent years and will be commonplace soon. However, testing programs have demonstrated that more development is required before passengers can be completely confident that self-driving vehicles can be used with very little risk.
In 2016 an Uber test program showed their technology still needed refinement. The self-driving test cars consistently ran red lights and drove in bike lanes. As a result, California regulators ordered Uber to cease their program and remove the vehicles from the road.
9 Spying On Customers
The attorney for Richard Jacobs, a former Uber manager of global intelligence before being fired, wrote a letter detailing illegal events within the rideshare company. The activities conducted by Uber’s Strategic Services Group (SSG) allegedly sought to obtain a competitor’s trade secrets through eavesdropping and data collection. The letter goes further alleging that some of the information collected was forwarded to then-CEO Travis Kalanick.
8 Aggressively Targeting Competitors
In a free-market economy, a business can win customers and compete fairly against the competition by providing superior products or services and a lower price.
In 2014, Uber decided to beat their biggest competitor, Lyft, by using a different strategy. Uber intentionally booked 5,560 fake Lyft rides to negatively impact Lyft profits, making Uber more desirable. One employee alone was responsible for more than 1,500 of those cancellations.
7 20 Uber Employees Fired For Sexual Harassment
After resigning at Uber, engineer Sarah Fowler wrote a blog post describing the rampant sexual harassment she endured while an employee. As a result, outspoken publisher, author, and women’s rights advocate Arianna Huffington joined a team to investigate allegations. After reviewing over two-hundred HR claims, more than 20 employees were fired.
6 Pregnant Woman Refused Service
When a pregnant woman in New York went into labor, she and her birthing partner collected her things and called an Uber for the ride to the hospital. Stepping up to the car and feeling nauseous, the woman vomited. Fearing the woman would vomit again on the trip, the Uber driver refused to let her enter the vehicle. To make matters worse, the Uber driver charged the new parents-to-be $13 for his lost time.
Shortly after the incident, Uber issued an apology.
5 Automatic Surge-Pricing When The Demand Is High
Uber uses a pricing algorithm that automatically detects circumstances of high demand and low supply. Prices are raised in increments, depending on the scale of the shortage.
The higher prices are designed to encourage drivers to participate, putting more Uber cars on the road when they're most needed. However, in the case of higher demand, surge-pricing kicks in and, in some areas, customer costs can be four times the regular fare.
4 Uber France Promoted Rides With Hot Female Drivers
In October 2014 Uber’s branch in Lyon, France debuted a promotion to pair Uber customers with "hot chick" drivers. Uber deleted the promotion soon after Buzzfeed politely questioned their judgment. The company failed to comment, but the promotion was quickly terminated and removed from the internet.
Pando founder Sarah Lacy wrote of the incident: “I am not surprised that someone inside the company took Kalanick's callous attitude towards female riders and comments like 'Boober' to mean that shocking level of exploitation and disrespect was appropriate…”
3 “God View” Tool Allows Uber To Track Drivers
In November 2014, Buzzfeed discovered that Uber had monitored one of its reporters with a tool nicknamed "God View." The program permitted the company to track vehicles and obtain personal information of the drivers.
An investigation by the New York Attorney General into the Uber's privacy practices using the “God View” program, ended in a settlement. The company paid a $20,000 fine.
2 Apple Threatens To Remove Uber’s App From App Store
In 2017 the New York Times reported that Apple’s Tim Cook had accused Uber of violating the App Store's terms and conditions.
Apple objected to a small piece of code that Uber had incorporated into its app, allowing identification of phones, even after the data was removed. The software allowed the company to detect if a customer was using the same cell phone repeatedly but wiping it clean to take advantage of promo codes.
1 Travis Kalanick Resigns In 2017
After a string of setbacks and controversy over the company's reported unethical culture, Uber’s Chief Executive Travis Kalanick resigned in 2017. Under pressure from investors, Kalanick’s departure caps a turbulent period for the world’s leading ride-services company.
Bradley Tusk, an Uber investor and adviser, said: “The person who still best personifies Uber’s potential is the person who left Tuesday night, but it’s not like he really could stay without it being brutally bad for the company.”
Sources: motorbiscuit.com, businessinsider.com, reuters.com, nytimes.com, techcrunch.com