On Thursday, the U.S.-based taxi app firm Uber Technologies admitted to remotely locking computers in some of its international offices to prevent law enforcement officers raiding the buildings from getting access to sensitive information.
Melanie Ensign, a spokesperson for Uber, said the technology enabled Uber to remotely access and lock smartphones and computers and even change passwords on devices located outside its San Francisco-based headquarters.
Bloomberg found that the ride-hailing company used the technology from early 2015 through late 2016 in its Brussels, Montreal, Paris, Hong Kong, and Amsterdam offices.
While some Uber employees believe the system was abused to hinder lawful investigations, other employees believe the tool prevented warrantless investigations.
It is not the first time Uber hinders law enforcement oprations through an app. A few years ago, the company used an app called Greyball to identify law enforcement agents that hailed rides to prove Uber was breaking the law.Those orders were either canceled or never carried out.
Uber Routinely Hindering Law Enforcement Operations
The Department of Justice also found that the company seemingly used a similar software to monitor drivers working for a rival company called Lyft.
In Montreal, authorities raided Uber’s offices in 2015 to seek evidence of tax law breaking by Uber. However, Uber used an app called Ripley to remotely lock access to any computer system in its Montreal office. After a second search warrant, the company agreed to cooperate.
Uber said it had to ditch Ripley two years ago because the app was not working well. It unveiled that it has a new tool to lock screens and encrypt devices from a distance called the ULocker.
The spokesperson for the company refused to confirm whether Ulocker was being used against law enforcement. Uber employees, however, are instructed to not use the app when its use is considered illegal.
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