Dec 16, 2017

Uber alleged gestapo tactics: hacking, secret surveillance

0 comments

 

Ex-employee accuses secret unit at Uber of multiple unlawful actions

 

Last month, details emerged about a secretive unit within Uber dedicated to stealing trade secrets, surveilling competitors, using self-destructing messages, and dodging government regulators. The accusations came from a former member of Uber’s security team, Ric Jacobs, whose 37-page letter detailing all of Uber’s shady behavior was sent to Uber’s management earlier this year. Prior to today, only snippets of the letter have been read aloud in court. Now, a redacted copy of the letter is public as part of the ongoing litigation between Uber and Waymo, the self-driving unit of Alphabet. And it’s a doozy.

 

The so-called “Jacobs letter” has become the latest twist in the high-profile case between two tech giants over the future of self-driving cars. Its incendiary content caps off a disastrous year for Uber, which has suffered a series of self-inflicted scandals that has upended its senior leadership and raised the prospect of criminal penalties.

 

At first glance, the Jacobs letter an incredibly detailed accounting of multiple unlawful actions by the ride-hail company. He alleges that Uber’s secretive Strategic Services Group (SSG) “frequently engaged in fraud and theft, and employed third-party vendors to obtain unauthorized data or information.” He also accuses Uber security officers of “hacking” and “destruction of evidence related to eavesdropping against opposition groups.” And he says Uber’s ex-CEO Travis Kalanick knew about a lot of it.

 

Another Uber employee, Nicholas Gicinto, along with SSG, conducted “virtual operations impersonating protesters, Uber partner-drivers, and taxi operators.” These Uber security employees went to great lengths to hide their surveillance activities from the authorities, Jacobs says. They used computers not purchased by Uber that ran on Mi-Fi devices, so the traffic wouldn’t appear on Uber’s network. They also used virtual public networks and “non-attributable architecture of contracted Amazon Web Services” to further conceal their efforts, Jacobs alleges. Who were they surveilling? Jacobs says SSG’s targets included “politicians, regulators, law enforcement, taxi organizations, and labor unions in, at a minimum, the US.”

 

And then there was Uber’s innocuously named Marketplace Analytics team. Jacobs says this group was responsible for “acquiring trade secrets, codebase, and competitive intelligence... from major ridesharing competitors globally.” According to Jacobs, Marketplace Analytics impersonated riders and drivers on competitor platforms, hacked into competitor networks, and conducted unlawful wiretapping.

 

In one of the weirder sections, Jacobs alleges that Uber’s surveillance team infiltrated a private event space at a hotel and spied on the executives of a rival company so they could observe, in real time, their reactions to the news that Uber had received a massive $3.5 billion investment from Saudi Arabia. That eavesdropping was directed by ex-Uber security chief Joe Sullivan at the behest of Kalanick, Jacobs says.

 

Jacobs, who was fired by Uber in April, took the stand at a hearing in San Francisco late November to answer questions about the letter. He confirmed much of what was written, but also contradicted some of the claims, including the specific mention of knowledge of stealing from Waymo. Jacobs’ disagreements reportedly come from the fact that he didn’t fully read the letter before his legal team sent it.

 

Uber has called Jacobs an “extortionist,” referencing the $4.5 million settlement he received over his claims about the company’s secrecy measures. But US District Court Judge William Alsup, who is overseeing the Waymo-vs-Uber case, called those claims “BS.” The emergence of the letter, outside the normal discovery process, caused Alsup to delay the jury trial for a second time. (The trial is now expected to begin in February.)

 

Uber has reportedly been scraping data on its competitors for years, collecting information on their drivers, routes, technology, and executives. According to Gizmodo, Uber gathered this data using automated collection systems that ran non-stop, amassing millions of records, and sometimes conducted physical surveillance. A source with knowledge said that Uber has recently put a stop to all of the automated scraping, but has only paused its practice of gathering information on its competitors using public APIs.

 

Jacobs goes into more detail about the sophisticated efforts Uber allegedly employed to disrupt its overseas competitors:

 

These tactics were employed clandestinely through a distributed architecture of anonymous servers, telecommunications architecture, and non-attributable hardware and software. This setup allows the MA team to make millions of data calls against competitor and government servers without causing a signature that would alert competitors to the theft. For instance, a sophisticated competitor [REDACTED] would set thresholds when they see devices attempting to request rides by the hundreds or thousands in a short period of time. However, if the data calls are diversified across what appear to be multiple devices and a broader time period, filters would not detect the anomaly.

 

In the meantime, Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi has sought to distance himself from the behavior described in the Jacobs letter, which took place before he took the reins from co-founder Travis Kalanick, while also acknowledging that many of those actions occurred and would no longer be tolerated. In an email to staff November 29th, Khosrowshahi said:

 

With regard to the allegations outlined in Ric Jacobs’ letter, I can tell you that we have not been able to substantiate every one of his claims, including any related to Waymo. But I will also say that there is more than enough there to merit serious concern. As I hope you’ve seen over the past 2.5 months, I will always be fair when people admit mistakes or bring hard problems to me. But let me be clear: I have drawn a line. I will not tolerate misconduct or misbehavior that was endorsed or excused in the past. Period.

“While we haven’t substantiated all the claims in this letter — and, importantly, any related to Waymo — our new leadership has made clear that going forward we will compete honestly and fairly, on the strength of our ideas and technology,” a Uber spokesperson said after the letter was filed in court. Lawyers representing Uber security officials named in Jacobs’ letter decried it as “character assassination.”

Earlier this week, the US Department of Justice confirmed that it is investigating Uber’s alleged theft of Alphabet’s trade secrets. In a letter to Alsup, the US Attorney from the Northern District of California said it had interviewed Jacobs as part of an on-going probe into Uber’s allegedly illegal activities.

 

The question, though, is how Waymo will try to convince a jury that the Jacobs letter proves its broader case against Uber, especially since Jacobs has declined to stand by some of the claims in the letter that relate to Waymo.

 

The suit centers around the alleged theft of thousands of documents by former Google self-driving engineer Anthony Levandowski. Shortly after Levandowski left Google, he founded Otto, a self-driving truck startup, which was subsequently acquired by Uber. Waymo’s lawyers have argued that Uber wound up with those allegedly stolen files and merely masqueraded the process as an acquisition. The self-driving car unit is seeking $1.9 billion in damages.

 

Waymo v Uber Jacobs Letter by Nick Statt on Scribd

 

https://www.theverge.com/2017/12/15/16782138/uber-jacobs-letter-wiretap-fraud-theft-hacking

New Posts
  • Facebook user Gerard Ong has joined the chorus of criticism against the DPM with a critique that has garnered over 400 reactions and more than 300 shares on social media. A lengthy Facebook post criticising Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat over his dismal performance in Parliament last week is trending online. DPM Heng, who is expected to succeed Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and become Singapore’s fourth head of government after the next election, is widely considered the head of the ruling People’s Action Party’s (PAP) fourth-generation (4G) slate of leaders. Last week, he introduced a motion in Parliament to get Workers’ Party (WP) politicians Low Thia Khiang and Sylvia Lim to recuse themselves from the financial matters of their Aljunied-Hougang Town Council (AHTC). Instead of scoring a win for his party, Mr Heng fumbled. Multiple parties who were present in the House and those who watched the proceedings online noted that Mr Heng struggled to defend his motion when confronted with the WP’s position that they will be appealing the High Court decision in the apex court. A visibly flustered Mr Heng eventually called for an abrupt time-out in the middle of the proceedings. His hour-long speech introducing his motion was also called “rambling” and his closing remarks were considered “garbled” by those who were in the gallery. Prime Ministe Lee Hsien Loong was also seen looking exasperated as he coached Mr Heng on what to say. Facebook user Gerard Ong has joined the chorus of criticism against the DPM with a critique that has garnered over 400 reactions and more than 300 shares on social media. In a post published last Thursday (7 Nov), Mr Ong noted that this is not the first time Mr Heng has faced a roadblock during a parliamentary clash with WP chairman Sylvia Lim: “In March 2018, it was the trial balloon saga where Heng Swee Keat (HSK) asked Sylvia Lim to apologise and withdraw her allegation on the timing of the GST hike. Now he is asking her and Low Thia Khiang to recuse themselves from the town council’s financial matters. “Being a legal practitioner, Sylvia knew the motion was not legally binding and refused to do so. Besides if she did, it would clearly indicate to some degree that they were dishonest and untruthful in safeguarding public funds that were entrusted to them. “In both incidents HSK went head-on into two roadblocks when it was totally unnecessary for him to do so. Under parliamentary rules he did not breach any rules. But HSK should have known that Sylvia was not going to budge as she knew where she stood by the rules of the house as well. “What HSK must understand is when one apologises it really means one has done wrong. If Sylvia feels that she has done no wrong and has not profited from it why should she make statements or carry out actions to indicate her wrong doing? “In this case the courts have decided but the ruling will only be absolute when the appeal is heard and the final ruling given. This is called due process of law which in essence prohibits the government from taking any action against its citizens or agents of the government until a final verdict is delivered by the apex court.” Asserting that Mr Heng has shown once again that “he is still an amateur at the game,” Mr Ong wondered why he chose this course of action and speculated about whether Mr Heng was trying to prove himself to his party members. Pointing out that neither the current PM or the immediate past PM were very good examples of strong leaders, the netizen asserted that one who is high-handed is not necessarily a good leader: “HSK has again shown his hand that he is still an amateur at the game. I fail to understand why he adopted this latest course of action. I wonder who was his audience? Was it the Prime Minister, the cabinet and fellow PAP MPs? Was he trying to show them that as heir to the PAP throne, he is indeed a worthy successor to LHL? “What he should realise is LHL and GCT are not very good examples of strong and decisive PMs. The only reason GCT survived was because LKY was Senior Minister and Minister Mentor from 1990 to 2011, he provided the backbone to these two PMs. “Well we know why LHL became PM and how he has performed. But at least LHL has pretty decent oratorical skills and is articulate. “HSK must now realise that being high-handed does not mean you are a good leader. Look at what people are saying on the internet of his recent spat with Sylvia. A good leader knows when to open up and when to take decisive action.” Opining that Mr Heng, who also serves as Finance Minister, may be good with numbers but may not be a good leader for the people, Mr Ong added: “Good leaders always take calculated risks and aim to win. Poor leaders always stumble because they have not thought through their intended decisions and its ramifications. HSK is in essence a numbers man but not a good leader of people. “Richard Hu who was Finance Minister from 1985 to 2001 was a classic example of a behind the scenes numbers man. Although he was eloquent, he was not a leader in the true sense of the word. “Goh Keng Swee was a brilliant economist and blue-skies man but was inept as a public speaker. They were in reality good planners and visionary political leaders. Men like them knew they were never good PM material.” Calling Mr Heng an “uninspiring leader who is unable to galvanise his followers,” Mr Ong said that the DPM’s “lack of presence” and poor communication skills worry him given the geo-political situation in the region: “HSK from his recent showings is an uninspiring leader who is unable to galvanise his followers. He lacks presence and his communicative skills are below par. This worries me as the world has become a dangerous place. “The geopolitical situation in the Asia Pacific has become less stable. The rise of China and its military prowess is a cause of worry as China knows that whatever we may say or do, we are still in the American camp. “The wheels are still churning up north as well. If you have watched recent political developments you will see alliances being struck between old enemies. As yet we still do not know who will succeed Mahathir. “In Indonesia, Joko Widodo has appointed his political rival, Prabowo Subianto as his Defence Minister as well as others who were against the President in the hustings. These developments could affect the immediate political relationship over areas such as airspace management, defence arrangements, border controls and the like. “At a time like this we need a decisive leader who is smart at navigating and taking on the challenges which will surely come our way. A leader who is also compassionate and one who puts his country, his people and party (in that order) before himself. “In this day and age of electronic media broadcasts and TV, a leader must have excellent communicative skills. This is definitely a veto quality in my books. “Why Singapore did well from 1965 onwards was because we had LKY and a very able cabinet in our formative years. When LKY spoke, you can’t help but listen. Not only was he bright but he was street- smart and competent as well. His cabinet comprised able and selfless men who were up to the job. “They knew how the game was played. In the past there was no internet and social media in existence, so we all pulled the oars together. But those days are gone. Singaporeans are better educated, and more vocal. We are better informed and more exposed to the world at large. “Many of us have become “critical lovers” of Singapore. Our political leaders must remember that when we criticise our leaders it does not mean we are disloyal to our country or ungrateful for what the PAP has done for Singapore.” Pointing out that the times have changed and the people want more of a say in how the country is run, Mr Ong said that it may be good for Singapore in the long-term to elect an capable opposition in Parliament so that the ruling party will also rely on capable and decisive leaders: “But times have changed, the world has changed and our leaders must go with the change. Being high-handed in governance is passé We all want to have a better say in how our country is run. “In the next election, if members of the opposition are voted in, they will also be held accountable for their words and deeds. Perhaps it may be good for us in the long run to have a capable opposition in parliament as it will make for a better PAP with capable and decisive leaders who will understand that a one-party state is a thing of the past!” http://theindependent.sg/hsk-is-an-uninspiring-leader-who-is-still-an-amateur-at-the-game-criticism-against-dpm-heng-trends-online/
  • Last Saturday (9 Nov), Trade and Industry Minister Chan Chun Sing said that the Singapore-India Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement (CECA) does not grant Indian nationals unconditional access into Singapore or immigration privileges. The news was picked up by the Straits Times (ST) and reported the following day (‘ Free Trade Agreements have created more jobs for Singaporeans: Chan Chun Sing ‘, 10 Nov). Essentially, ST reported: Trade and Industry Minister Chan Chun Sing has come out in defence of Singapore’s free trade agreements (FTAs), saying these have helped more Singaporeans get employed in higher-skilled jobs. He made the point yesterday as he refuted criticism that one such agreement, between Singapore and India, had given Indian professionals unfettered access to jobs and citizenship here. Such falsehoods, circulated online and in WhatsApp chat groups, were aimed at scaring and dividing Singaporeans at a time of economic uncertainty, he said. Some purveyors of such untruths had gone further to play the racial card. Warning against such behaviour, he said:“The Government takes a very serious view of these attempts to rattle Singaporeans and divide our society.” ST also raised the point that CECA critics have pointed to India taking advantage of the “intra-company transferee” clause to move large number of Indian nationals to work here. ST defended the government saying that the government has said there is a stringent definition for intra-corporate transferees and additional criteria that make it harder to game the system. It then quoted the example that to qualify under CECA, intra-corporate transferees must have worked for their company for at least one year before being posted to Singapore and they are only allowed to stay for a total term not exceeding five years . What ST said was incorrect. TOC points to actual CECA text showing otherwise Yesterday (11 Nov), TOC also published news of what Chan said on Saturday with regard to Indian nationals working in Singapore under CECA (‘ Chan didn’t disclose that there is no economic needs test or quotas on agreed services under CECA ‘). TOC points to the exact text of Chapter 9 on “ MOVEMENT OF NATURAL PERSONS ” agreed by both countries in CECA. TOC highlighted that CECA allows “intra-corporate transferees” to, in fact, work for up to total of 8 years in the host country. And added, “Note that for intra-corporate transferees, it is defined as an employee who has been employed for a period of not less than either six months in company and one year industry experience or three years industry experience immediately preceding the date of the application for entry.” Hence, under CECA, the total number of years an Indian national can work in Singapore as an “intra-company transferee” is 8 and not 5 years , and the person only needs to be recruited by the company in India for just 6 months and not 1 year before his or her transfer to Singapore. TOC also highlighted that there is no quota requirement imposed on intra-corporate transferees and under Article 9.3 of CECA, all the “intra-corporate transferees” are to be exempted from any “labour market testing” or “economic needs testing”. “To top it all, Article 9.6 even allows the ‘intra-corporate transferees’ to bring in their spouses or dependents to work here too,” TOC shared. ST says sorry After TOC’s article was published yesterday, ST corrected itself and apologised for its erroneous report. Its original online article was later updated late yesterday night with the correct figures: This morning (12 Nov), ST also published a retraction (‘ What it should have been ‘) with the following text: In Sunday’s report, “FTAs have created more jobs for S’poreans: Chan”, we said intra-corporate transferees must have worked for their company for at least one year before being posted to Singapore. We also said they are allowed to stay for a total term not exceeding five years. These conditions for transferees are set out in the World Trade Organisation’s General Agreement on Trade in Services. But under the Singapore-India Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement (Ceca), such transferees are required to have worked for their company for a period of not less than six months, among other things. They are also allowed to stay for a total term not exceeding eight years. We are sorry for the error. It tried to explain its error by saying that it was referencing WTO’s general agreement. Unemployment rate going up for Singaporeans Meanwhile, the Manpower Ministry released the Labour Market Report Advance Release for Q3 last month, showing that even though growth of total employment was higher, the number of retrenchments rose over the quarter with unemployment rates inching up. The overall unemployment rate increased over the quarter, from 2.2 to 2.3%. For Singaporeans, the unemployment rate was higher rising from 3.2 to 3.3%. Manpower Minister Josephine Teo said, “This suggests that mismatches are widening. It could be jobseekers not having the skills to access available jobs, or jobs being insufficiently attractive.” https://www.theonlinecitizen.com/2019/11/12/st-says-sorry-for-publishing-wrong-info-on-how-long-indian-nationals-can-work-in-sg-under-ceca/
  • Trade and Industry Minister Chan Chun Sing said on Saturday (9 Nov) that the Singapore-India Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement (CECA) does not grant Indian nationals unconditional access into Singapore or immigration privileges. Claims that the bilateral agreement has cost job opportunities for Singaporeans aim to stoke fears in times of economic uncertainties, said Mr Chan. Media reports over Chan’s statement noted that there have been falsehoods surfacing in relation to free trade agreements (FTAs). Channel News Asia noted one of such falsehoods is that CECA has allowed Indian nationals to take PMET (professional, managerial, executive and technician) jobs away from Singaporeans. Mr Chan in his statement to the press, clarified that all FTAs, including CECA, place no obligations on Singapore with regard to immigration. “Indian professionals, like any other professionals from other countries, have to meet MOM’s (Ministry of Manpower’s) existing qualifying criteria to work in Singapore. This applies to issuance of Employment Pass, S Pass, and work permit. “Second, CECA does not give Indian nationals privileged immigration access. Anyone applying for Singapore citizenship must qualify according to our existing criteria,” said Mr Chan. In response to claims that Singaporeans have lost out on PMET jobs, Mr Chan pointed out that the country’s network of FTAs has, in fact, increased these jobs by 400,000 to 1.25 million since 2005. However, he did not state how many PMET jobs have been created from CECA. Not to mention, that there was an explosion in numbers of Permanent Residents during the period that Chan had stated. Clearly, the new PRs and new citizens converted from PRs, are those who take up PMET jobs as Immigration and Checkpoint Authority states that only a holder of an Employment Pass or S Pass is eligible to apply for PR. While Mr Chan acknowledged that economic uncertainties have created anxieties over job security, he asserted that perpetuating fear, is not the right response. “We understand, and we share Singaporeans’ concerns with competition and job prospects in the current uncertain economic environment. But the way to help Singaporeans is not to mislead them and create fear and anger,” said Mr Chan. “The way to help Singaporeans is to make sure that first, we expand our markets for our enterprises. Train our workers constantly to stay ahead of competition. Never allow others to stoke the fears and racial biases of our people. Never do this for selfish personal or political reasons,” he added. Mr Chan said that MOM is aware of companies that have breached fair hiring practices and will weed them out to protect Singaporean workers and businesses. Controversial terms of CECA On 29 June 2005 ,  India and Singapore signed CECA. This free trade agreement not only enables Singapore and India to trade goods freely, it also allows professionals to work in each other country more easily. The CECA was concluded after 13 rounds of negotiation and the Singapore’s side was led by none other than Heng Swee Keat, the current PM-in-waiting, who was then Permanent Secretary for Trade and Industry. Heng and his team essentially did the ground work together with their Indian counterparts. They then presented their proposals to the politicians for approval. Some of the areas covered by CECA include: Improved Avoidance of Double Taxation Agreement, Trade in Goods, Customs, Investment, Trade in Services, Intellectual Property, etc. However, controversial ones include concluding further Mutual Recognition Agreements (MRAs) so as to facilitate the freer movement of professionals between Singapore and India. It helps to recognise each other’s education and professional qualifications so that Indian and Singaporean professionals from the following five professions could be able to practise in each other country: 1. Accounting and auditing 2. Architecture 3. Medical (doctors) 4. Dental 5. Nursing Already, Singapore now recognises degrees of Indian doctors and nurses from certain Indian universities. Then, CECA also enables movement of persons between both countries. In particular, professionals employed in 127 specific occupations will be allowed entry and stay for up to 1 year or the duration of contract, whichever is less. Also, intra-corporate transferees (i.e. managers, executives and specialists within organisations) will be permitted to stay and work in India and Singapore for an initial period of up to 2 years or the period of the contract, whichever is less. The period of stay may be extended for period of up to 3 years at a time for a total term not exceeding 8 years. Politicians ask about issues and benefits of CECA, with no answer provided While Mr Chan professes that CECA brings jobs to Singaporeans and Indian nationals do not steal jobs from Singaporeans, there does not seem to be any data that support his claim. For figures, we know that about 5,400 local professionals, managers, executives, and technicians (PMETs) were retrenched in 2018. Though it is the lowest recorded level since 2014, against a backdrop of local PMET employment growth of about 34,000, PMET accounted for 79.3% of local retrenchment and 2018 also saw a growth of 11,100 foreign S-Passes across all sectors. Back in 2016 , Workers’ Party Non-Constituency Member of Parliament Leon Perera asked the Minister for Manpower about the number of intra-company transferees (ICT) from India that have been approved under the Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement (CECA) with India from the year when the agreement came into effect to the latest year for which data is available. But in response, then-Manpower Minister Lim Swee Say said the ministry does not disclose data on foreign manpower with breakdown by nationality, including data on ICTs. This policy of non-transparency remains the same till today. Earlier this year, Dr Tan Cheng Bock stated at the official launch of Progress Singapore Party that his party will ask the government to come up with a balance sheet to account for how Singapore has benefited from the India-Singapore Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement (CECA) which it signed with India to allow citizens from India and Singapore to travel to each country to seek employment. “How many local jobs have gone to Indian professionals and how many Singaporeans have gone to India?” asked Dr Tan. In theory, of course, CECA could also benefit Singaporean professionals wanting to work in India but how many Singaporeans really want to work there to earn in rupees? https://www.theonlinecitizen.com/2019/11/10/minister-chan-chun-sing-throws-smoke-bomb-on-ceca-concerns-by-stating-ftas-created-more-jobs-for-singaporeans/

2019 © All Rights Reserved | PROLIFIC SKINS

No part of this website or any of its contents may be reproduced, copied, modified or adapted, without the prior written consent of the site administrator, unless otherwise indicated for stand-alone materials.

Commercial use and distribution of the contents of the website is not allowed without express and prior written consent of the site administrator. All other logos, products, services and company names mentioned in the PROLIFIC SKINS website are trademarks of their respective owners and subject to their own copyright laws, foreign or domestic.

For clarifications on any other sharing-related concerns, please use the contact form provided on this site.