Everything to know about ‘Uber Files’ massive revelations

Uber specifically targeted the owners of the UK’s Daily Mail, France’s Les Echos, Italy’s La Repubblica and L’Espresso, Germany’s Die Welt and Bild, and The Times of India

Jul 13, 2022 03:53:00 AM | Article | Ewan Larkin

A string of more than 124,000 internal documents, dubbed the “Uber Files,” have revealed insights into the ride-hailing platform’s global expansion strategy and operations. 

The files, obtained by The Guardian and then shared with International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, span from 2013 to 2017, when Uber co-founder and former CEO Travis Kalanick ran the company. 

The confidential information includes text messages, emails, company presentations and other documents as Uber was rapidly trying to expand globally. 

The leaks make clear that senior leaders at Uber knew what the company was doing was wrong. According to the Uber Files, one executive jokingly dubbed the company “pirates,” with another openly stating, “We’re just fucking illegal.”

And that’s only scratching the surface. 

Here is everything you need to know about Uber following the leak. 

The whistleblower

On Monday, Mark MacGann, Uber’s former chief lobbyist for Europe, the Middle East and Africa, identified himself as the source that leaked the information. 

“I regret being part of a group of people which massaged the facts to earn the trust of drivers, of consumers and of political elites,” he said in an interview with The Guardian.

MacGann, who admitted to being “partly responsible,” helped Uber persuade governments to change taxi regulations. 

“It is my duty to [now] speak up and help governments and parliamentarians right some fundamental wrongs. Morally, I had no choice in the matter,” he added. 

No matter the cost

In January, 2016, more than 2,100 French taxi drivers took to the streets of Paris in an anti-Uber protest. When Uber drivers quickly became subjects of violence, the company used the narrative to its advantage. 

As Uber senior executives debated sending drivers to the protest, Kalanick wrote, “If we have 50,000 drivers, they won’t and can’t do anything. I think it’s worth it. Violence guarantee[s] success,” according to the Uber Files.

The company allegedly sought to use the violence to drive regulatory change in France and other countries. Following Kalanick’s message, drivers were asked to sign letters to the French president and prime minister to help save their jobs. 

Bargaining chips

Amid its fight to expand globally, Uber turned to powerful media figures, using their influence to win favor with governments, the leaked documents revealed

The company urged existing media investors to lobby on its behalf, promising others substantial shares if they followed suit. 

Uber specifically targeted the owners of the UK’s Daily Mail, France’s Les Echos, Italy’s La Repubblica and L’Espresso, Germany’s Die Welt and Bild, and the Times of India, the Guardian reported. 

The kill switch

Uber’s controversial tactic, internally deemed the “kill switch,” prevented law enforcement and regulators from accessing its IT systems and sensitive data during office raids in at least six countries, according to the leaked documents.

The company used the kill switch at least 12 times in France, the Netherlands, Belgium, India, Hungary and Romania. 

Uber’s response

Uber issued a statement in response to the ICIJ investigation, outlining the company’s transformation since Dara Khosrowshahi replaced Kalanick as CEO.

“When we say Uber is a different company today, we mean it literally: 90% of current Uber employees joined after [Khosrowshahi] became CEO,” said Jill Hazelbaker, Uber’s SVP of marketing and public affairs. 

The company also accepted responsibility for previous leaders’ mistakes.

“We have not and will not make excuses for past behavior that is clearly not in line with our present values. Instead, we ask the public to judge us by what we’ve done over the last five years and what we will do in the years to come,” Hazelbaker added. 

An Uber representative declined additional comment. 

(This article first appeared on PRWeek.com)