The legal battle between Uber the ride-hailing behemoth and Waymo the self-driving unit of Alphabet reached a pivotal point this week as the Judge presiding over the case released a letter based on the account of a former employee at Uber.
The letter alleged that a division with Uber has been responsible for carrying out acts such as theft of trade secrets, corporate espionage, bribery of officials in foreign countries, and different types of unlawful surveillance.
The letter, given the name “Jacobs Letter,” was authored by an attorney who represents Richard Jacobs, a former employee at Uber who held the position of global intelligence manager prior to his firing last April.
In the highly detailed account accusations are leveled of systematic illegal activities inside the Strategic Services Group (SSG) of Uber, which allegedly sought out the trade secrets of other companies through data collection and eavesdropping.
The letter said that some of the gathered information had been relayed on to Travis Kalanick the then-CEO.
The letter, which is 37 pages in length, details actions taken by the SSG as well as the Marketplace Analytics group that the letter claims exist for the only purpose of codebase, acquisitions of trade secrets, and competitive intelligence of major competitors in ride-hailing services globally.
The letter alleges as well that the group used chat apps that were ephemeral encrypted and devices that were non-attributable to maintain their actions under wraps.
Earlier in the week, a report on Gizmodo highlighted the systematic data scraping of the platforms of competitors through the use of automated collection systems, which were running all the time, amassing huge sums of records.
While a large amount of this so-called hacking or other types of surveillance apparently relied on these automated systems, Uber also was alleged to have engaged in forms of physical surveillance such as using wiretaps to discover the advantages as well as weaknesses of competitors.
Uber is alleged to have used undercover agents in order to collect different intelligences to use against local politicians and taxi groups.
The agents rode in taxis, loitered in locations that were congregated by taxi drivers, and used a network in local areas that had connections to regulatory authorities and police, alleges the former employees’ letter.
In an email dated November 29 to employees with regard to the accusations in the Jacobs letter of human surveillance, Uber’s general counsel Tony West wrote there was no place for such types of practices or that form of behavior at Uber.