Tag: Uber

Did Uber Just File A Trademark For A Mobile Game Called “UberDrive”?

According to the filing, UberDrive is a “computer game software for mobile devices…”

The trademark filing for UberDrive filed on Dec. 2.


Is Uber building some kind of mobile app or game?

According to search findings in the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office database, Uber Technologies has filed for a trademark for a mobile application called UberDrive. UberDrive, according to the filing, will be a “computer game software for mobile devices” that provides “entertainment services.”

Sally M. Abel, the attorney of record for this particular filing, also filed the trademark filing for what appears to be a new logo for Uber on the same day — Dec. 2. The description for Uber is, as expected, “a mobile application software for connecting drivers and passengers” or a “mobile application software for automated scheduling and dispatch of motor vehicles.”

Uber spokesperson Kristin Carvell called to say she was looking into the filing in response to BuzzFeed News' request but later emailed and said Uber had no comment on the matter.

Uber recently raised a $ 1.2 billion funding round valued at $ 41 billion. In the blog post announcing the funding, CEO and co-founder Travis Kalanick makes no mention of expanding beyond the original function of Uber (connecting passengers to drivers), though he did write that the new round would help the company make more investments specifically in the Asia Pacific.

Again, here's the filing for UberDrive:

Again, here's the filing for UberDrive:

And here's the trademark filing for Uber, filed on the same day by the same attorney of record, Sally M. Abel:

And here's the trademark filing for Uber, filed on the same day by the same attorney of record, Sally M. Abel:


View Entire List ›

BuzzFeed – Tech

Portland Files Lawsuit, Orders Uber To Stop Operating Within City Limits

The move comes after Portland’s Bureau of Transportation set up a sting operation to catch people driving for Uber illegally. The ride-sharing company, meanwhile, has urged riders to sign a petition of support.

A screenshot of Uber's petition to Portland Mayor Charlie Hales.


Portland, Oregon, filed a lawsuit against Uber Monday, asking a judge to force the popular ride-sharing company to stop operating within city limits until it complies with local regulations.

In announcing the lawsuit, the city said in a statement that Transportation Director Leah Treat had also issued a cease and desist order to Uber.

The move came days after transportation officials carried out a sting operation in which they said they documented multiple instances of Uber drivers illegally accepting ride requests. Because Uber drivers are not permitted under the city's private ride-for-hire regulations, passengers can only be dropped off within city limits, not picked up.

The Portland Bureau of Transportation (PBOT) requires private for-hire vehicles to have an LPT and taxi driver permit, a taxi company permit, and taxi license plates. The penalty for violating the rules starts at $ 1,000 to $ 1,500 for a first offense, and then grows to $ 2,500 and $ 5,000 for second and third offenses, respectively.

“Our main concern is public health and safety, because the state invested in the cities the responsibility to do that,” Mayor Charlie Hales said in a statement. “Beyond that, though, is the issue of fairness. Taxi cab companies follow rules on public health and safety. So do hotels and restaurants and construction companies and scores of other service providers.”

In a statement Monday, Uber said Portland needed to “modernize” its transportation regulations and accommodate public demand.

“We appreciate the way residents have welcomed Uber into the Rose City, their support illustrates why it's time to modernize Portland transportation regulation,” the statement read. “In less than 4 hours, nearly 7,000 Portland residents have signed the petition in support of Uber and we remain hopeful that the city will listen to Portlanders who want safe, reliable, hassle free ride options now.”

In response to threats from Portland authorities to shut down its service, the California-based ride-sharing company had urged existing riders to sign a petition to Hales asking him to “stand with Uber.”

“Portland knows you as a strong voice for innovation, an advocate for Portlanders like me, and someone who fights for what's best for our economy; it would only be natural that you support Uber's operation in Portland,” the petition to Mayor Hales reads.

The legal action filed on Monday is tied to a sting operation carried out by transportation officials who requested rides and then took down the information of drivers who accepted.

On Friday at 5 p.m., a PBOT staffer requested two Uber rides, both of which were accepted and then canceled by the driver.

PBOT issued two civil penalties to Uber on Monday, one for operating without a company permit and another for operating without a vehicle permit.

As officials document Uber's unpermitted operations in Portland, they will issue warnings to drivers and penalties to the company, the city announced. Drivers found to be repeatedly operating without a permit may be subject to civil and criminal penalties, officials warned.

Officials continue to gather evidence and should have more to report in the coming week, PBOT spokesman Dylan Rivera told BuzzFeed News in an interview Sunday.

Though he wouldn't go into much detail, Rivera said that staffers are still requesting Uber rides, in some cases canceling them, just to take down the information of drivers who are accepting ride requests within city limits. They are also encouraging the public to report any sightings of Uber drivers.

Drop-offs within the city aren't illegal, but according to Rivera, Uber drivers who pick up passengers in Portland are likely violating city codes that carry substantial penalties.

Rivera said Uber has made no contact with the PBOT to discuss how to work within the the city's regulations and has instead saturated the markets directly outside city limits — a likely strategic play to increase demand in the larger and more central market that the company is after.

“This isn't unprecedented for [Uber] to enter the market like this,” Rivera said. “It's happening in other parts of the country. So we're not surprised but we're certainly frustrated and disappointed.”

In addition to having the proper permits, the PBOT requires companies providing private for-hire vehicles to perform background checks that are renewed and updated annually, as well as a rigorous Automotive Service Excellence (ASE) certified mechanical inspection of their vehicles.

Those requirements, though, may change as the city reviews how it regulates the industry, Rivera said.

BuzzFeed – Tech

New Delhi Woman Allegedly Raped By An Uber Driver

Multiple reports and police statements allege that an Uber driver raped a young Delhi woman Saturday evening. The driver is currently missing.

@Uber_Delhi's Twitter profile picture.

According to multiple reports, a young woman in New Delhi was allegedly raped by an Uber driver while returning home Saturday night.

Reports citing a Delhi police complaint say that the woman entered the cab before 10:00pm and fell asleep in the back of the car. When she awoke, she had been driven to an unknown and secluded spot, where the driver assaulted and raped her with the doors locked. After, the alleged incident, police told NDTV that “the driver then dropped her off near her home in Inderlok in north Delhi after threatening to kill her if she spoke of the matter to anybody.”

Currently, the suspected driver is missing. According to reports, he deleted the Uber app from his phone after the incident so as not to be tracked and police claim the phone may not have been registered in the suspect's name.

Though accounts vary on the woman's age (one claims she is 25 and the other 27), police note that she managed to take a picture of the driver's license plate with her phone. Police are currently looking for the suspect.

A spokesperson for Uber told BuzzFeed News that the company became aware of the incident this morning and is fully cooperating with police to investigate the issue. According to the spokesperson:

It is also our policy to immediately suspend a driver's account following allegations of a serious incident, which we have done. In India, we work with licensed driver-partners to provide a safe transportation option, with layers of safeguards such as driver and vehicle information, and ETA-sharing to ensure there is accountability and traceability of all trips that occur on the Uber platform.

This incident comes just days after Uber announced it had raised $ 1.8 billion funding round to expand in the Asia Pacific region, of which New Delhi is a part. Uber's newest round values the company at $ 40 billion.

BuzzFeed – Tech

Uber Closes $1.2 Billion In Funding With Sights Set On Asia Pacific

In a blog post, CEO and co-founder Travis Kalanick says the growth of the company doesn’t come without “growing pains.”

Lucas Jackson / Reuters

Uber CEO Travis Kalanick announced that after a year of substantial growth, the company closed a $ 1.2 billion round of funding with “additional capacity remaining for strategic investment.” Now, in 250 cities in 50 countries, the company plans to expand its hold on the Asia Pacific, where the service is already available in 41 cities.

According to reports, the company filed to raise $ 1.8 billion and has confirmed the funding valued Uber at $ 40 billion.

But news of the growth of the company (which Kalanick wrote is six times larger than it was a year ago), comes with the caveat that Uber has made mistakes along the way.

“This kind of growth has also come with significant growing pains,” Kalanick wrote. “The events of the recent weeks have shown us that we also need to invest in internal growth and change.”

Uber is “seeking counsel” from companies that have made the same mistakes and plans to be making changes in the next few months. “Done right, it will lead to a smarter and more humble company that sets new standards in data privacy, gives back more to the cities we serve and defines and refines our company culture effectively,” the blog post read.

BuzzFeed – Tech

Uber NYC General Manager Faced “Disciplinary Actions” For Privacy Violations

A BuzzFeed News report prompted Uber to investigate Josh Mohrer for accessing this reporter’s account without express permission.

Josh Mohrer, Uber NYC general manager, at a TLC public hearing earlier this year.

BuzzFeed News

An Uber spokesperson said the company has “taken disciplinary actions” against Josh Mohrer, the New York City general manager, after launching an investigation into two separate incidents and possible privacy violations 10 days ago.

Mohrer, as BuzzFeed News reported, accessed this reporter's personal Uber account twice without express permission, including one occasion during which he tracked a ride in real time.

Only a day after the initial BuzzFeed News report about Mohrer's actions and SVP Emil Michael's comments suggesting the company hire opposition researchers to dig up dirt on journalists, Uber head of communications Nairi Hourdajian wrote and published the company's privacy policy on the site for the first time. However, the policy itself, according to Hourdajian, has always been in place and in fact employees are notified of the policy multiple times including in writing.

“Violations of this policy do result in disciplinary action, including the possibility of termination and legal action,” a previous statement from the company read.

As Slate first reported, Uber would not go into detail about what the disciplinary action would entail or whether these actions affect his role as general manager in Uber's second largest market in the United States. As the incidents and Mohrer's actions warranted disciplinary action, it's clear the company found them in violation of its privacy policy.

BuzzFeed News reached out for more information, including who performed the investigation and exactly what action Mohrer faced, but Uber representative Natalia Montalvo said they were not providing any additional details.

BuzzFeed – Tech

Lyft’s Silence On Uber

Lyft and Uber have been locked in a ruthless corporate dogfight for the past year… so why has the ride-sharing underdog been so quiet during Uber’s nightmare week?


Last week, as Uber was facing wide public criticism for an executive's comments as well as reports that a New York employee used the company's internal tools to track a journalist, one voice has been all but absent: the transit giant's biggest rival, Lyft.

Lyft entered the marketplace in 2012 to compete with Uber and for the last year the companies' corporate dogfighting and controversial recruiting tactics have been well documented. This August CNN Money reported that Uber ordered and canceled roughly 5,000 Lyft rides in order to hurt driver availability during a recruiting push. That same week, an Uber representative alleged to the New York Times that Lyft was engaged in similarly ruthless behavior. “Lyft's claims against Uber are baseless and simply untrue. Furthermore, Lyft's own drivers and employees, including one of Lyft's founders, have canceled 12,900 trips on Uber,” the spokesperson said.

One reason for Lyft's silence: They appear to have had one of the same problems as Uber — wide access for employees to customer data (though the company says it's never encountered or caught any employee mishandling user information). Lyft spokesman Erin Simpson told BuzzFeed News that the company has in the past week created tiers of access and permissions so that employees can only access the information they need in order to do their jobs. According to Simpson, the data isn't just restricted by teams or individuals but also by different tiers or layers of data.

Simpson said the public silence was simply a matter of policy — Lyft has historically only commented on issues with its biggest rival when it feels its own drivers have been affected by Uber policies or business practices. When asked why Lyft users weren't informed last week when the company changed its internal privacy policies, Simpson told BuzzFeed News that it has never previously made public statements about purely operational back-end technological changes. As far as attacking Uber's business practices, Simpson said the company chose not to engage, given that the issue involved private citizens outside of Lyft. “I felt it would be insensitive to comment because those circumstances affected real people. We're focused on our own unique values which speak for themselves,” she said.

That said, Lyft is quietly capitalizing on Uber's scandal. The past week's privacy concerns have moved some users to delete Uber's app (the app tracking site App Annie says that Uber's download rank has fallen from 24th to 41st since just last week) and consider moving to one of its seemingly more scrupulous rival services, like Lyft. And Simpson told BuzzFeed News that while they wouldn't share numbers, Lyft has seen a sizable influx of new users over the past seven days, making last week its best week ever.

But while Lyft has managed to avoid Uber levels of controversy, the rival service has previously butted heads with riders, drivers, and legislators just as Uber has.

In its attempt to enter the New York City market, Lyft clashed frequently with the NYC Taxi and Limousine Commission as well as New York State lawmakers. In July, the transit company tried to launch in New York City without full state approval, prompting the New York Attorney General's Chief of Staff Micah Lasher to slam Lyft's co-founder on Twitter for the company's business practices:

While it's been reported far less than Uber, Lyft has also clashed with its drivers. In September Lyft canceled its luxury service and lowered prices by 10% in Los Angeles, causing drivers to protest. Vice reported last month that Lyft drivers were quitting in droves as a result of the cuts and, in some extreme instances, even burning their fuzzy pink Lyft mustaches. From the Vice report:

Gone are the smiling, friendly, and competent Lyft drivers of last summer. As these drivers have seen their compensation go from a guaranteed minimum of $ 18 per hour to a fare rate of $ 1.10 per mile and $ 0.21 per minute (when they can even get a fare; one of their complaints is that there's an overabundance of cars on the road), those with better moneymaking options have moved on to other work while the holdouts and new, completely unvetted hires are left to fight over scraps.

Similar to Uber, Lyft has also had documented legal troubles with drivers. In June, NBC San Francisco's investigative unit obtained video footage allegedly showing a Lyft driver assaulting a pedestrian while off-duty for Lyft. Valleywag reported in July that a Lyft driver asked for the number of a rider and allegedly stalked the rider incessantly.

While all of these events are concerning, they seem to represent the types of growing pains that large on-demand service apps have to go through while they navigate entry into new markets. Legislative battles, hiring untrustworthy employees, and clashes with drivers over fluctuating pricing models seem to be symptoms of having to scale a business fast — at times, perhaps recklessly so.

But then there is the issue of user privacy, which, according to Liz Gannes at Re/code, also bears similarities to Uber. In a post from last week, Gannes notes multiple instances where Lyft pulled up her trip logs without her permission:

For the record, Uber has never presented my personal data to me. But I can recall multiple times when an executive from Lyft, a rival service, punched up my trip log and told me about it. After my very first trip with Lyft, one executive told me the name of the driver who brought me to the cafe where we met.

Asked about the company's privacy protocol this week, a Lyft spokeswoman said she does have tools to access journalists' accounts, but she has never used them unless the person is present and has given permission. She said she would look into earlier policies, but has not yet replied to multiple follow-ups.

Last Tuesday, when BuzzFeed News asked Lyft if it had any privacy policies in place that regulate whether staffers can go into accounts of riders and if there were any specific policies regarding journalists a spokesperson told BuzzFeed News the company wasn't commenting on the issue.

Since, the company has responded by quietly changing its internal data access settings for employees. Simpson said that, while there has always been an internal privacy policy, the company has now created tiers of access and permissions so that employees can only access the information they need in order to do their jobs. According to Simpson, the data isn't just restricted by teams or individuals but also by different tiers or layers of data.

“One thing that's significantly different from [Gannes'] article is that as the leader of the comms team, I previously had access to user data, but now, with these changes, I now have no access to user data, since my role in comms doesn't require me to access user information,” Simpson said.

While Simpson said to BuzzFeed News that the policy is a “proactive” approach to privacy as the company grows quickly, she also noted that it would be fair to say the decision to change internal policies stemmed from conversations that progressed based on the public reports on Uber from last week.

But quiet privacy changes aside, the company has done little to publicly distance itself from its rival's tactics, though Simpson told BuzzFeed News via email that “regarding the Uber news last week, it goes without saying that we're a very different company.”

Still, unlike Gett, which denounced Uber and its business practices in a letter last week, Lyft has refused to pile on to its rival. There are multiple ways to interpret this kind of silence — that Lyft, a company that has marketed itself as the friendly, scrupulous alternative Uber, has decided to take the high road, benefitting from Uber's negative PR and staying out of the fray to foster goodwill and add new users. Or perhaps it's as Gannes suggests in the headline of her post from last week: “It's Not Just Uber: Tech Companies Snooping on Users Is All Too Common.”

Though Lyft presents itself as the anti-Uber (“maybe you're picking up your best friend,” a quote from the Today show on Lyft's press page reads), the similarities between Uber's UberX offering and Lyft are striking, down to the price points. Uber New York General Manager Josh Mohrer (who is currently under investigation by the company after reports that he tracked a BuzzFeed reporter) noted the similarities in an interview with BuzzFeed News.

“We've been at this for over three years. A new entrant which is doing something very similar to us is going to be at a disadvantage, especially that is priced exactly the same as us,” he said. “The liquidity advantage we have is very large and those pickup times would be two minutes and they'll be reliable all the time; we hold the reliability value above all else.”

View Entire List ›

BuzzFeed – Tech

Uber Security Staffer Went Undercover At Taxi Conference

“They are simply a business that is not following the rules,” says taxi boss. Uber defends the stealth move.

Kai Pfaffenbach / Reuters

A former Air Force investigator who now works in “Global Security” for the transit company Uber omitted his employer's name — and scrubbed it from his LinkedIn profile — when he attended the conference of Uber's archenemy, the taxi lobby, last month.

The security staffer, Roger Kaiser, left his Uber affiliation off the form at the Taxicab, Limousine, and Paratransit Association's (TLPA) annual conference in San Antonio last month, TLPA spokesperson John Boit confirmed to BuzzFeed News — and the apparent undercover operation prompted a furious response from the group.

“This is just more evidence of Uber buying into its own myth that they supposedly need to conduct clandestine research against anyone — organizations or journalists — who are against them,” Mike Fogarty, the president of the TLPA, told BuzzFeed News. “They aren't in a political campaign. They are simply a business that is not following the rules. All I can say is that I hope this gentleman from Uber, and whoever else they had in the room, learned a thing or two about how a responsible transportation company operates.”

Kaiser paid the $ 555 registration fee, which gained him full access to all of the conference's sessions as well as access to the trade floor, Boit said; he said none of the members he spoke to recalled coming into contact with Kaiser.

A spokesperson for Uber, Kristin Carvell, confirmed that Kaiser, a former special agent in the Air Force Office of Special Office of Special Investigations, had attended the conference and defended his conduct. She ignored questions about why Kaiser's LinkedIn profile had, as recently as Nov. 18, no mention of Uber — though it had previously included his employer, according to cached Google search results.

“Roger completed the required registration and attended the Taxicab, Limousine and Paratransit Association's (TLPA) annual conference, which is open to members of the industry and at which Uber was an agenda item in multiple sessions,” Carvell said in an emailed statement. “He attended while employed by Uber, a company that partners with taxi and limousine services in cities around the world.”

At some point between Nov. 18 and 25, Kaiser restored Uber to his LinkedIn profile.

The TLPA and Uber have had a publicly contentious relationship. The TLPA launched “Who's Driving You,” a campaign to expose the regulatory issues the association believes Uber, Lyft, and other transit apps are violating. Uber, in turn, has been looking to fill an oppositional research position to “weaponize” facts about organizations and specifically cited campaigns by the TLPA, as BuzzFeed News reported last week.

The only barrier to entry to the TLPA conference is the registration fee. The registration forms ask attendees to identify the company they work for, which is then written under their name on the conference badge that each attendee receives. According to Boit, the TLPA does not have a history of turning employees of other car service companies down. The year before, Hailo employees attended the conference and identified themselves as Hailo employees.

“We knew they were in attendance, and we had direct, open conversations with them,” Boit said. “Nothing clandestine, no cloak-and-dagger nonsense.”

Uber did not respond to questions about what Kaiser's position of “Global Security” entails. On LinkedIn, Kaiser's most “endorsed” skills include counterterrorism, counterintelligence, criminal investigations, surveillance, intelligence operations, and countersurveillance.

View Entire List ›

BuzzFeed – Tech

Uber CEO: Obamacare Has Been “Huge” For Business

Health care frees drivers from “The Man.”

Handout / Reuters

The CEO of Uber said Friday that Obamacare has played a crucial role for his army of drivers, an unusual, partial endorsement of the president's signature policy from a man often cast as a hero of anti-government libertarianism.

BuzzFeed News reported in October that the new, subsidized market for health care has been a boon to companies like Uber, which are essentially digital middlemen relying on armies of independent contractors. Figures ranging from Uber drivers to Obamacare architect Jonathan Gruber called the health care overhaul crucial in the emergence of the sharing economy, but Uber had remained officially silent on the subject until Friday.

“It's huge,” Travis Kalanick, Uber's CEO and co-founder, said in response to a question about Uber and Obamacare at a dinner in Manhattan. Kalanick didn't comment on the specifics of the health care policy, but said he sees little sense in the traditional link between employment and health care; he said he believes all Americans should have access to some health care safety net, without losing the option of paying more money for private care.

And he said the success of Obamacare's core goal — creating a functioning individual market for health care — is very much in sync with Uber's vision of a liberated work force.

“The democratization of those types of benefits allow people to have more flexible ways to make a living,” Kalanick said. “They don't have to be working for The Man.”

Uber is vastly the largest and most successful of a new wave of sharing economy companies, adding 50,000 new independent contractors to its platform nationwide every month, and Kalanick's endorsement comes as a new Republican Congress feels its way on issues touching both tech and a health care policy many of its leaders have sworn to repeal.

BuzzFeed – Tech

Amid User Concerns, Uber Rolls Out Its Privacy Policy

The company acted after a BuzzFeed News report .

Uber unveiled a brand new privacy policy today, nearly 24 hours after BuzzFeed News reported that SVP Emil Michael suggested hiring opposition researchers to find and publish personal information on journalists covering the company.

The policy, unveiled on the company's blog states that “Uber has a strict policy prohibiting all employees at every level from accessing a rider or driver's data. The only exception to this policy is for a limited set of legitimate business purposes.”

Nairi Hourdajian, head of communications at Uber, told BuzzFeed News that Uber has strict policies against employees accessing journalists' personal Uber accounts. However, on two occasions Uber NY general manager Josh Mohrer accessed this reporter's account without express permission — a fact Hourdajian was made aware of, and which BuzzFeed News reported Monday.

Prior to BuzzFeed News' report Uber did not have a published policy addressing the privacy of users' accounts. The policy specifically prohibits accessing accounts unless it's for a “limited set of business purposes,” which include rider and driver support or facilitating transactions for drivers.

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