Category: Technology

My Lifelong Obsession With Pokémon Has Thrown Me Into Existential Despair

Pokémon Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire are delightfully familiar. Not just because they’re great games, but because they STILL don’t address a million basic questions, like why nobody ever poops.

Courtesy Nintendo

Courtesy Nintendo

What self-respecting parent lets their 12-year-old take off around the world just because their weirdo new neighbor needs some help with a research project?

For that matter, what PhD program allows its graduates to primarily rely on the labor of tweens?

Do my Pokémon know that I named them all after Gilmore Girls characters and fast-food restaurants?

If so, do they care?

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BuzzFeed – Tech

The World’s First Stalker Drone Could Be Upon Us Soon

The Mind4 Kickstarter seeks funding for a smart drone to “follow any subject precisely”.

Everybody, say hello to the Mind4!

Everybody, say hello to the Mind4!

Built by Airmind, the Mind4 just might become your new favorite drone.

Built by Airmind , the Mind4 just might become your new favorite drone.

So how's it different from the garden variety? Well, it's all a bit technical.

So how's it different from the garden variety? Well, it's all a bit technical.

But here's the basics. You download an app and select a target.

But here's the basics. You download an app and select a target.

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BuzzFeed – Tech

Rival Gett Writes A Scathing Letter Denouncing Uber

“Uber seems to be verging on NSA style surveillance on users and spending investors money attempting to discredit any journalist writing negative stories,” the letter reads.

Gett Media Kit

In a letter obtained exclusively by BuzzFeed News to both individual consumers and corporate clients, Gett — a global app-based car service company that operates in New York, Tel Aviv, and London, among other cities — denounced the actions of executives at competing company Uber, suggesting that the company's practices are “verging on NSA style surveillance on users.”

“What they have been doing is not only unethical and immoral, but it's also likely illegal,” Global Chief Marketing Officer Rich Pleeth wrote. “Accessing private users['] data without their permission is certainly no small issue. At GetTaxi we take personal data extremely seriously, we have numerous safeguards and privacy policies ensuring that all personal data on our servers is entirely secure, particularly as have some of the world[']s largest businesses using our enterprise solution.”

The letter comes in the aftermath of the BuzzFeed News' report that Uber Senior Vice President Emil Michael suggested spending $ 1 million to hire opposition researchers to dig up dirt on journalists (the company is, in fact, looking to fill an opposition research position as BuzzFeed News reported, though it plans only to target incumbent taxi companies) and another BuzzFeed News report that Uber is investigating a top executive in New York for accessing this reporter's data without permission.

“We're not 'assholes' tracking you when you take a ride with us and are not going to dig into your private life if you write a negative tweet or story,” the letter reads.

Pleeth went on to express concern for the corporate clients that signed up for Uber's recently launched service: Uber for Business.

“We have over 2000 enterprise clients and have been offering this service for three years,” he wrote. “Uber recently launched their very basic Business solution, and now, are businesses going to be happy that their employees are likely to be tracked by any Uber employee curious enough to look, private lives looked into if they write negative comments? I'm going to guess no.”

Since Gett launched in New York (the only city the company operates in in the United States), the company has made a point to differentiate itself from the industry leader. Gett began its quest to distinguish itself from the competition by rolling out a promotional $ 10 standard fare for rides anywhere in the city (excluding the outer boroughs) and followed it up with the announcement that the company will pay its drivers double the per-minute rate that Uber pays. The company rolled out that 70-cents-per-minute rate (compared to Uber's 30-cents-per-minute rate) after a group of Uber drivers organized a series of protests against a permanent price cut that made Uber X rides cheaper than yellow cabs.

In a previous interview with BuzzFeed News, Gett CEO Ron Srebro said that the company's efforts to offer a low fare for passengers but high wages for drivers is in part subsidized by the success of their business in their existing markets in other parts of the world. To further ensure the company is able to sustain this business model, the company has chosen to forego an advertising and marketing budget instead allocating those funds to pay their drivers.

But it seems the company isn't foregoing marketing entirely. These public efforts to differentiate itself from Uber are a sort of stand-in for elaborate billboards or digital advertising.

That aside, Pleeth's letter makes clear Gett's stance on Uber. Borrowing the phrase inside quotation marks, Pleeth twice refers to the transit giant as 'assholes.' “Uber has come up with a process to get press; they go out and break the law because they have the largest war chest to pay their high profile lobbyists and lawyers to quash complaints, regulators, and competition,” the letter reads.

And it's not just app-based rivals. The “taxi incumbents” Uber is so keen to take down are also speaking up. In its own open letter, the Committee for Taxi Safety, a taxi company and driver association in New York, urged the Taxi and Limousine Commission to begin an investigation into Uber's “usage of passenger data and the God View technology.”

“We also ask that their license be suspended until the riding public can be assured that their privacy and data are safe,” the letter addressed to TLC Commissioner Meera Joshi stated. “Nobody should worry about being tracked against his or her will and without his or her permission.”

Here's the full letter from Gett that BuzzFeed News received exclusively:


BuzzFeed – Tech

Uber Sought To Hire Opposition Researcher To “Weaponize Facts”

A document obtained by BuzzFeed News points to taxi industry targets, not journalists. Bullet points, not bullets, a spokesperson says.


Uber has in recent weeks sought to hire opposition researchers to “weaponize facts” to use against its taxi industry competition, according to a confidential recruiting document obtained by BuzzFeed News and confirmed by the company.

Uber is facing wide public criticism after BuzzFeed News reported that an executive floated the idea of hiring opposition readers to dig dirt on reporters. The aggressively-phrased recruiting document makes no mention of targeting the press, and is instead focused on “our opponents in the transportation industry.” A spokesperson, Kristin Carvell, said the executive, Emil Michael, was not referring to these plans to hire opposition researchers when he spoke of hiring opposition researchers to focus on reporters.

“Emil's reported comments had no connection to the reality of how we do and will operate,” she said.

The new role of director of research and rapid response appears to be part of Uber's effort to bring the aggressive tactics of American presidential politics to its city-by-city trench wars with existing car companies. Uber CEO Travis Kalanick said in May that the company has no choice but to “throw mud” at taxi companies and the associations that represent the taxi industry, and in August brought former Obama campaign manager David Plouffe to the company to lead a campaign-like effort that now includes both Uber's communications shop and the new opposition research role.

“Uber is the candidate and [the opponent] is an asshole called Taxi,” Kalanick told Re/code's Kara Swisher in May. “I'm not totally comfortable with it but we have to bring out the truth of how evil Taxi is.”

Plouffe cast his new role in combative terms in an interview with Bloomberg News on August 19, saying he would be “fighting for the transportation alternative Uber represents.”

This week, however, Kalanick appeared to moderate Uber's public tone and suggest that its communications strategy should be focused not on conflict but on “appealing to people's hearts and minds.”

“We must be open and vulnerable enough to show people the positive principles that are the core of Uber's culture,” he tweeted. “We must tell the stories of progress Uber has brought to cities and show the [sic] our constituents that we are principled and mean well.”

The recruiting document strikes a notably less positive tone. It is framed as two exercises job candidates must complete as part of the hiring process, including laying out a six-month research plan that includes “both 'self' and 'oppo' with a greater focus on 'oppo.'”

“Oppo” is political campaign shorthand for opposition research, a practice that typically includes searches of public records and published reports, but which may also extend to videotaped tracking of foes and more aggressive investigative tactics.

“Your mission is to identify and weaponize the facts about those incumbents, the truth about Uber and to do it one step ahead of the rest,” the document says.

“Once we have the research, we have to weaponize and disseminate it. That's where a rapid response operation comes in working closely with our comms team. Please outline your recommended approach for a successful rapid response effort that seeks to set the record straight on both Uber and our opponents,” the document later reads.

An Uber spokesperson, Kristin Carvell, offered this definition of the word “weaponize”: “It means distilling sometimes dense or lengthy information (e.g. 75-page research reports, political contribution reports) into factual, bulleted points.”

The recruiting document was provided to BuzzFeed News by a source who chose to leak it, the source said, after being disturbed by recent reports on Uber's aggressive business practice. The source shared the document on the condition it not be posted in full; Uber provided BuzzFeed News a word-for-word identical version of the document with only a recruiter's name deleted.

Carvell cast the new team in a far more positive light than does the recruiting document. She said that the goal of the position will be “producing research that helps communicate the Uber story — how we serve riders, drivers, and cities — and that makes the facts clear about the taxi opposition.” She went on to blame the industry for making that roll necessary by “waging multimillion-dollar campaigns and hiring PR firms, consultants, etc., to disseminate often inaccurate information about Uber.”

Uber's main organized foe is the Taxicab, Limousine & Paratransit Association, which has attacked Uber under the rubric, “Who's Driving You?”

Carvell said the decision in the past few months to hire an opposition and rapid response team is “not newsworthy.”

“Organizations, corporations, campaigns, etc have hired for a role of this nature and continue to,” she said, adding that they hadn't filled the role.

Carvell declined to comment on the size of the proposed rapid response operation.

“We don't share future potential hiring plans,” she said.

Here Is Uber's Recruiting Document

Here Is Uber's Recruiting Document

Via Uber

BuzzFeed – Tech

In A Win For Uber, Taxi And Limousine Commission Revises Proposed One-Base Rule

AG Eric Schneiderman, who urged the revision , applauded the change.

Carlo Allegri / Reuters

The TLC will be voting on a proposed ruling tomorrow intended to promote accountability among car service companies — including Lyft and Uber — that initially, among other things, calls for a mandate that would prohibit bases from dispatching drivers affiliated with another base. However, revisions made to that ruling today, if passed, would allow drivers to accept rides from multiple bases rather than working with one base exclusively. (An exception to that rule is if two bases have come to a formal agreement.)

“We had some concerns about Workers Comp coverage for drivers in instances where there weren't inter-base agreements in place,” Allan Fromberg, TLC's deputy commissioner of public affairs, told BuzzFeed News over email. “But we researched it exhaustively and we are now satisfied that coverage would be in place even without the agreements, and so we withdrew that one component of the proposed rules. We also saw the withdrawal of that one component as being very consistent with drivers' status as independent contractors. The other components – requiring the standardization and routinization of trip data, and prohibiting cross-segment dispatch — remain in place.”

The revisions come just a few days after BuzzFeed News first reported that New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman wrote a letter to the TLC urging them to reconsider the mandate that bases must come to an agreement in order for them to dispatch unaffiliated drivers. Citing the possibility of antitrust issues arising and the fear that the most well-capitalized company could monopolize the industry, Schneiderman urged the TLC to reject the proposed rule as written, entirely.

In response to the revision, Schneiderman released this statement:

“I applaud Commissioner Joshi and the Taxi and Limousine Commission for revising its proposed rules to promote competition and innovation in the for-hire vehicle industry By allowing for-hire drivers to accept dispatches from multiple bases, the TLC will increase driver efficiency, lower the costs of entry for new services, and encourage more competition in the taxi industry. I want to thank Commissioner Joshi for incorporating feedback on this proposal, and pushing to implement smart, forward-looking regulations.”

The revision is a win for both Uber and Lyft, both of which argued against the one-base rule at the public hearing but for different reasons. Lyft, which only has 10 cars tied to its black car base, would be effectively regulated out of the car service industry in New York unless the company was able to convince drivers to transfer to its base. Uber, on the other hand, would lose 3,000 part-time drivers (by the company's estimation) that have begun driving for them since the company began dispatching drivers from other bases.

BuzzFeed – Tech

What Uber Drivers Really Make (According To Their Pay Stubs)

I went on 11 rides with 11 randomly picked Uber drivers to see how much they’re paid and how they like driving for Uber.

Vimeo / Via

A few weeks ago, Uber New York General Manager Josh Mohrer, who has been known to fight his fair share of public battles in defense of Uber on Twitter, tweeted an offer out to reporters: In response to articles that questioned Uber's claims that drivers made an an average of $ 25 an hour (or that the median driver makes upwards of $ 90,000 a year) Mohrer said he would go on the record with any reporter who took 10 rides and asked those drivers for their payment statements (Uber is currently investigating Mohrer for apparently violating the company's privacy policy during the reporting of this story).

It seemed as good a chance as any to get to the heart of Uber's rapidly growing business, one that has already transformed the transportation industry in just a few years, so I took Josh up on the offer and took 11 rides with 11 randomly chosen Uber drivers and obtained eight out of 11 of the drivers' pay statements — two drivers who spoke on the record were not comfortable with showing me their pay statements and Uber did not provide pay statements for the last driver.

As is common with ride-sharing services, throughout my 11 rides, the work schedule varied considerably for each driver. Most were part-time by their definition (working two to three days out of the week or only a few hours each day), three were students attempting to pay their way through college, one had been with Uber since it arrived in New York, three just started driving for Uber in the week before I rode with them, one was renting his car through Uber's fleet partnerships program, and another was renting his car from his father. The youngest drivers were 21. The oldest were over 40.

The eight drivers netted hourly wages of $ 15.22, $ 21.17, $ 27.54, $ 32.90, $ 36.88, $ 37.12, and $ 38.25 — not including one-time referral or sign up bonuses or one-time deductions. They worked between 5.78 and 42.65 hours per week. Overall, their combined hourly wage during this time was $ 31.61 (BuzzFeed News has uploaded its aggregated driver payment information here).

All of this seems to verify, if not surpass, the data that Uber touted in a September blog post, comparing this past September's average net wages to the two previous Septembers' (before Uber put in place a fare cut that made Uber X cheaper than taxis). According to Uber, drivers netted an average of $ 25.00 an hour with an average of 1.3 rides per hour.

These net wages, however, don't take into account bridge tolls, car insurance, or other costs of being a driver. Subtracting only minimum insurance, rent (when appropriate), and tolls in the case of one driver who drives to and from New Jersey, the drivers' combined hourly wage weighted by how many hours they worked was approximately $ 21.95. Though it's not a far cry from what Uber claims their drivers pay on average per hour, it's important to note that this is still before accounting for other weekly driver expenses such as gas, car payments, car maintenance and wear and tear.

BuzzFeed News

The initial net income only reveals one aspect of the Uber driver pay structure, one that's been complicated by an huge influx of part-time drivers. Many of these drivers identify as part time because they either do not work every day of the week or only work a specific set of hours. Those who only work certain hours typically only go online during the busiest times of day when there is likely to be surge pricing.

For example, Zahidur Rahman, a 21-year-old student and Uber X driver who began working for Uber just a few months before the summer fare cuts, usually only works three nights a week because of classes. On those three nights, based on his pay statements, Rahman typically only works during the evening rush. During his busiest week starting on October 28 and ending on November 2, of the 38 rides Rahman had 15 were during surge pricing which was an average of 1.9 times the usual fare. Seven of those rides were double or more than double the standard fare. Rahman worked 18.57 hours that week, grossed $ 968.61 and took home $ 687.21 after Uber's 20 percent commission, sales tax, black car fund and the $ 10 data fee for their phone.

Between October 20 and October 27 (Rahman's highest grossing of the five weeks of pay statements I obtained), Rahman had 30 rides, 14 of which were surge priced rides and six of those surge priced rides were 2.75 times the fare. That week, Rahman only worked 14.5 hours across three days (the 21st, 22nd, and 23rd), grossed $ 1078.19 and netted $ 771.17.

Compare that to Lahab Alaur's highest grossing and busiest weeks. Alaur started working with Uber about four months ago. Of the drivers I obtained payment statements from Alaur worked the closest to full-time during the five weeks of statements. Twice, Alaur worked more than 40 hours and one week he was just under 40 hours.

Between October 6 and October 11, Alaur worked 42.65 hours, had 54 rides only 3 of which were surge priced, grossed $ 1,336.82, and netted $ 941.17. This was the most hours Alaur worked of the five weeks and he only netted approximately an average of $ 22.06 an hour. During the highest grossing week between October 27 and November 3, on the other hand, Alaur worked 40.1 hours, took 71 rides 16 of which were surge rides, grossed $ 1,870.77 and netted $ 1,333.73. He netted approximately $ 34.24 per hour that week.

Put that next to Rahman's highest grossing week and busiest weeks and you have an interesting comparison:

Rahman (part-time) Highest Grossing Week: 14.5 hours / $ 53.18 per hour
Alaur (full-time) Highest Grossing Week: 40.1 hours / $ 34.24 per hour

Rahman (part-time) Busiest Week: 18.57 hours / $ 37.07 per hour.
Alaur (full-time) Busiest week: 42.65 hours / $ 22.06 per hour

Put simply: Rahman, like many other part-time drivers I spoke to, works fewer but very specific high-income hours and thus makes much more per hour than a typical full-time driver.

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BuzzFeed – Tech

“God View:” Uber Investigates Its Top New York Executive For Privacy Violations

In the wake of a BuzzFeed News story, the transit company is looking into the official’s tracking of a journalist’s location.

BuzzFeed News

Uber said Tuesday that it is investigating its top New York executive for tracking a BuzzFeed News reporter without her permission in violation of what the transit giant says has long been its privacy policy. The company also published its privacy policy for the first time on Tuesday, though it said the policy had always been in effect.

Uber took both actions in the wake of a BuzzFeed News story that revealed that the reporter's ride had been tracked without her permission and that another Uber executive had suggested the company might smear journalists who wrote critically of Uber. The executive who suggested digging into the private lives of journalists, Emil Michael, said his comments were “wrong” and that he regrets them.

Tracking customers is easy using an internal company tool called “God View,” two former Uber employees told BuzzFeed News. They said God View, which shows the location of Uber vehicles and customers who have requested a car, was widely available to corporate employees. Drivers, who operate as contractors, do not have access to God View.

Early this November, one of the reporters of this story, Johana Bhuiyan, arrived to Uber's New York headquarters in Long Island City for an interview with Josh Mohrer, the general manager of Uber New York. Stepping out of her vehicle — an Uber car — she found Mohrer waiting for her. “There you are,” he said, holding his iPhone and gesturing at it. “I was tracking you.”

Mohrer never asked for permission to track her.

Two months earlier, to make a point about questions Bhuiyan had asked about ride-share competitor Lyft, Mohrer had emailed her logs of some of her Uber trips. He had not asked for permission to access her data.

Uber said access to and use of its data is permitted only for legitimate business purposes and that violations result in disciplinary action, including the possibility of termination and legal action. It also said it is investigating Mohrer's actions in tracking Bhuiyan and accessing her logs.

The two former Uber employees, both of whom worked at the company until this spring and requested anonymity, said that God View was easily accessible to staff across the company. One said employee said that he never saw unauthorized use of the tool; the other declined to answer that question.

Venture capitalist Peter Sims wrote about being tracked in a blog post this September. Back in 2011, he wrote, he was in an Uber car in Manhattan when he started receiving text messages from someone he barely knew telling him exactly where he was. That person later told him that she was at an Uber launch party in Chicago, where Sims' movements were being tracked via God View on a large public screen.

“After learning this,” he wrote, “I expressed my outrage to her that the company would use my information and identity to promote its services without my permission. She told me to calm down, and that it was all a 'cool' event and as if I should be honored to have been one of the chosen.”

Uber did not respond to BuzzFeed News questions about this incident.

The company, which had not previously published its privacy policy, unveiled it Tuesday on its blog. “Uber has a strict policy prohibiting all employees at every level from accessing a rider or driver's data,” it states. “The only exception to this policy is for a limited set of legitimate business purposes.” Such purposes include solving problems for riders and drivers, monitoring accounts for fraudulent activity, and facilitating driver transactions. The company said the policy has always been in place and that employees agree to it when they join Uber.

On Tuesday afternoon, after Uber CEO Travis Kalanick tweeted a condemnation of Uber exec Michael's comments, Mohrer suggested the storm had passed, tweeting a celebratory image from the Uber New York office. He deleted it shortly after posting:

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BuzzFeed – Tech

Here’s How Uber Is Trying To Talk People Out Of Deleting Their Accounts

Community managers for the transit company confront journalist investigation allegations head-on to try and retain users.

Kai Pfaffenbach / Reuters

In the wake of a BuzzFeed News report that Uber SVP Emil Michael suggested hiring opposition researchers to find and publish personal information on journalists covering the company, some users have begun to delete their Uber profiles. But the company isn't letting them go easily.

One San Francisco Uber user, Brian Brophy, tried to cancel his account Tuesday evening, citing the company's “disturbing” business practices. In response, an Uber community manager vehemently defended the company in an attempt to retain Brophy as a user.

“We have not, do not, and will not investigate journalists. Those remarks do not reflect the views of the company and have no basis in the reality of our approach. Our executive has apologized for his comments,” the community manager replied.

Guardian columnist Jessica Valenti noticed and tweeted similar statement from an Uber community operations manager when she tried to cancel her New York account yesterday afternoon:

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BuzzFeed – Tech

Uber CEO Condemns “Terrible” Comments

“We should lead by inspiring our riders, our drivers, and the public at large,” Travis Kalanick said in a 13-tweet Twitterstorm this afternoon.

Handout / Reuters

This afternoon on Twitter, Uber CEO Travis Kalanick condemned comments made by Senior Vice President Emil Michael suggesting that the ride-sharing giant should consider hiring opposition researchers to dig up dirt on journalists who've previously criticized the company.

Michael's comments, first reported by BuzzFeed News, included the prospect of looking into details of the personal lives of specific journalists without their knowledge. While Michael issued a public statement calling his remarks “wrong no matter the circumstance,” Uber's outspoken CEO has been silent. Until now.

In an 13-tweet Twitterstorm, Kalanick decried Michael's remarks, saying that they showed “a lack of humanity.” While there was no official apology, Kalanick suggested that Uber should “tell the stories of progress and appeal to people's hearts and minds,” noting that the company will focus on regaining user trust.

“I will do everything in my power toward the goal of earning that trust,” he tweeted.

However, Kalanick failed to address the portion of the story that reports that Josh Mohrer, the Uber New York general manager, accessed BuzzFeed News reporter Johana Bhuiyan's Uber account without her permission. This is a clear violation of the company's policy on accessing the personal information of journalists' accounts, according to head of Uber communications Nairi Hourdajian.

Here is the full official Twitterstorm:

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BuzzFeed – Tech

Uber Executive Suggests Digging Up Dirt On Journalists

Senior vice president Emil Michael floated making critics’ personal lives fair game. Michael apologized Monday for the remarks.

Emil Michael, senior vice president of business for Uber, in July.

David Paul Morris/Bloomberg via Getty Images

A senior executive at Uber suggested that the company should consider hiring a team of opposition researchers to dig up dirt on its critics in the media — and specifically to spread details of the personal life of a female journalist who has criticized the company.

The executive, Emil Michael, made the comments in a conversation he later said he believed was off the record. In a statement through Uber Monday evening, he said he regretted them and that they didn't reflect his or the company's views.

His remarks came as Uber seeks to improve its relationship with the media and the image of its management team, who have been cast as insensitive and hyper-aggressive even as the company's business and cultural reach have boomed.

Michael, who has been at Uber for more than a year as its senior vice president of business, floated the idea at a dinner Friday at Manhattan's Waverly Inn attended by an influential New York crowd including actor Ed Norton and publisher Arianna Huffington. The dinner was hosted by Ian Osborne, a former adviser to British Prime Minister David Cameron and consultant to the company.

At the dinner, Uber CEO and founder Travis Kalanick, boyish with tousled graying hair and a sweater, made the case that he has been miscast as an ideologue and as insensitive to driver and rider complaints, while in fact he has largely had his head down building a transformative company that has beat his own and others' wildest expectations.

A BuzzFeed editor was invited to the dinner by the journalist Michael Wolff, who later said that he had failed to communicate that the gathering would be off the record; neither Kalanick, his communications director, nor any other Uber official suggested to BuzzFeed News that the event was off the record.

Michael, who Kalanick described as “one of the top deal guys in the Valley” when he joined the company, is a charismatic and well-regarded figure who came to Uber from Klout. He also sits on a board that advises the Department of Defense.

Over dinner, he outlined the notion of spending “a million dollars” to hire four top opposition researchers and four journalists. That team could, he said, help Uber fight back against the press — they'd look into “your personal lives, your families,” and give the media a taste of its own medicine.

Michael was particularly focused on one journalist, Sarah Lacy, the editor of the Silicon Valley website PandoDaily, a sometimes combative voice inside the industry. Lacy recently accused Uber of “sexism and misogyny.” She wrote that she was deleting her Uber app after BuzzFeed News reported that Uber appeared to be working with a French escort service. “I don't know how many more signals we need that the company simply doesn't respect us or prioritize our safety,” she wrote.

At the dinner, Michael expressed outrage at Lacy's column and said that women are far more likely to get assaulted by taxi drivers than Uber drivers. He said that he thought Lacy should be held “personally responsible” for any woman who followed her lead in deleting Uber and was then sexually assaulted.

Then he returned to the opposition research plan. Uber's dirt-diggers, Michael said, could expose Lacy. They could, in particular, prove a particular and very specific claim about her personal life.

Michael at no point suggested that Uber has actually hired opposition researchers, or that it plans to. He cast it as something that would make sense, that the company would be justified in doing.

In a statement through an Uber spokeswoman, Michael said: “The remarks attributed to me at a private dinner — borne out of frustration during an informal debate over what I feel is sensationalistic media coverage of the company I am proud to work for — do not reflect my actual views and have no relation to the company's views or approach. They were wrong no matter the circumstance and I regret them.”

The spokeswoman, Nairi Hourdajian, said the company does not do “oppo research” of any sort on journalists, and has never considered doing it. She also said Uber does not consider Lacy's personal life fair game, or believe that she is responsible for women being sexually assaulted. (Lacy initially declined to comment on Michael's remarks; she denounced them in a column after this story was published.)

Hourdajian also said that Uber has clear policies against executives looking at journalists' travel logs, a rich source of personal information in Uber's posession.

“Any such activity would be clear violations of our privacy and data access policies,” Hourdajian said in an email. “Access to and use of data is permitted only for legitimate business purposes. These policies apply to all employees. We regularly monitor and audit that access.”

In fact, the general manager of Uber NYC accessed the profile of a BuzzFeed News reporter, Johana Bhuiyan, to make points in the course of a discussion of Uber policies. At no point in the email exchanges did she give him permission to do so.

At the Waverly Inn dinner, it was suggested that a plan like the one Michael floated could become a problem for Uber.

Michael responded: “Nobody would know it was us.”

BuzzFeed – Tech