back to article COP BLOCKED: Uber app thwarted arrests of its drivers by fooling police with 'ghost cars'

Not content with cultivating a toxic, sexist and hostile corporate culture, Uber is on a collision course with cops worldwide. The ride-sharing app maker produced – and, for years now, used – a software tool called Greyball that thwarts attempts by police to arrest or fine Uber drivers wherever the car-hailing service is …

  1. x 7

    just jail the bastards, you know it makes sense

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Given that they have now been found to actively thwart government review of their activities I'd say it's time to ban the sods completely. It's time to apply the "something to hide" argument to this outfit.

      1. jake Silver badge

        It's never time ...

        ... for the "something to hide" argument.

        Unless, of course, you have a plate glass exterior wall to your shower, no door to your khazi, and no curtains on your bedroom windows ... What do you mean, I'm crazy? Not hiding anything, are you?

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Perspective much?

        "Given that they have now been found to actively thwart government review of their activities I'd say it's time to ban the sods completely."

        I'd rather that they concentrate on removing murderers, rapists, actual terrorists and pedophiles from society. Once that has been accomplished, then yeah, let them take out people giving out rides for a fee.

        1. Kiwi
          Pint

          Re: Perspective much?

          "Given that they have now been found to actively thwart government review of their activities I'd say it's time to ban the sods completely."

          I'd rather that they concentrate on removing murderers, rapists, actual terrorists and pedophiles from society. Once that has been accomplished, then yeah, let them take out people giving out rides for a fee.

          You do realise that one of the issues with Uber and the Taxi/Bus driver etc regulations in many countries is to make sure that you don't have a case of both (ie your taxi driver isn't also a murderer)?

          You realise that police forces can do more than one thing at a time, even if for many officers the tasks of chewing gum and walking are difficult to handle simultaneously?

          You realise we'll always have "murderers, rapists" etc"?

          You realise that because you used the term "actual terrorist" I am going to upvote you anyway since that is good evidence you have a decent grasp on reality, and I like people who don't classify every little thing as "terroists!!!!111!!!1!!!!!" :)

          It's a nice hot Sunday, have one of these -->

        2. Tom Paine

          Re: Perspective much?

          Your google starter for ten is "false dichotomy"

    2. The Man Who Fell To Earth Silver badge
      Black Helicopters

      RICO

      There's definitely enough evidence to jail Uber's management & VC's under RICO. But as we all know, the 1% aren't subject to the same laws as the rest of us.

      1. Truckle The Uncivil

        Re: RICO

        Except that RICO is designed to get the 1% or those at the top anyway.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: RICO

        "There's definitely enough evidence to jail Uber's management & VC's under RICO."

        The same could be argued of quite a few political campaign organisations and also parties ....

    3. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Especially if you are a hedge funded that is shorting them (or their investors) and is leaking these stories to the press

      1. ecofeco Silver badge

        Especially if you are a hedge funded that is shorting them (or their investors) and is leaking these stories to the press

        OH HO! I had not thought of that angle!

        I guess they have to get back some of those sunk billions, right?

      2. Version 1.0 Silver badge

        @YAAC

        If you have dirty hands then eventually the truth is going to come out regardless. If Uber does go down in flames (which seems possible) and the $66B valuation gets flushed down the toilet then perhaps the VC and hedge funds will start to look for safer investment vehicles (sic) instead of placing astronomical bets on startups.

        This would be a good thing.

        1. Z Ippy

          Re: @YAAC

          "If you have dirty hands then eventually the truth is going to come out regardless. If Uber does go down in flames (which seems possible) and the $66B valuation gets flushed down the toilet then perhaps the VC and hedge funds will start to look for safer investment vehicles (sic) instead of placing astronomical bets on startups.

          This would be a good thing."

          Problem is that its often our pension money at stake!

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: @YAAC

          perhaps the VC and hedge funds will start to look for safer investment vehicles (sic) instead of placing astronomical bets on startups.

          This would be a good thing.

          Not really, all of that cheap money created by the idiots bailing out Wall Street needs to be destroyed in an environmentally responsible way, see?

          If it is lost investing in stupid rainbow-flavoured unicorns, then it will get distributed and disappear quietly, if it was invested "responsibly", in bonds, we will never get rid of it now, we just have a huge overhang of bonds waiting to blow up on the next interest rate increase above Zero, physical "things" would be a disaster - just driving the prices out of reach for everyone, even for commodities.

          Which should then cause inflation - 'cept they lies about that number - 'cause if inflation, than rates must go up, then 100x leveraged bond portfolios must blow up.

          See? The VC's are doing God's Work.

        3. VanguardG

          Re: @YAAC

          Problem there is...*every* company was, at one time, a startup. Its true that for every company that grows into a megacorp, thousands fail utterly, but its also true that thousands more flourish but stay small, either from preference of the leadership or just because the market for their product is very small. Investors don't need to stop funding startups, but they do need to apply a *lot* more sense in selecting the ones that get funding. Seems like many didn't learn from the .com bust - they're still getting dazzled by a new idea presented with flair and charisma, and aren't asking enough hard questions, like "What obstacles do you see to your company's growth, and how do you plan to overcome them?" Even some of today's ultra-stable, monolithic giants would have been risky startups back when they were first organized.

          No, investors need to stop investing in charismatic people, and invest in companies led by people with demonstrable business sense.

      3. Eddy Ito

        Especially if you are a hedge funded that is shorting them (or their investors) and is leaking these stories to the press

        Shorting a company before the IPO. An interesting proposition,.it would require one of the VCs or another private stakeholder to lend shares but then to whom would the short sell those shares since it isn't a public company other than to another VC. It wouldn't surprise me if it were possible I'm just struggling to understand how it would work. I suppose there's always a naked short but still there's the issue of a buyer since you couldn't sell to just anybody.

    4. Z Ippy

      Perverting The Course Of Justice

      Carries a life sentence in the UK. Just saying!

      1. killakrust

        Re: Perverting The Course Of Justice

        INAL, but Is this 'Perverting to Course of Justice' though? I thought in most countriies the law says you are not required to incriminate yourself.

        On a smaller scale, if you were an unlicenced taxi driver, and you recieved a call from a number that you knew was from a police officer requesting a ride, you would be under no requirement to turn up to get arrested.

  2. Your alien overlord - fear me

    So when Uber drivers rape their passengers, the police can't 'see' where the bastards currently are based on the app? Probably raping and murdering other passengers.

    So isn't Uber aiding and abetting a criminal/interfering with a police investigation?

    1. Mark 85 Silver badge
      Mushroom

      Uber is obviously doing shady things. This and the other bits that have been revealed my just be the tip of the proverbial iceberg as lately something shady and new has been coming out every day.

      Icon --------> Waiting for the big one....

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Icon --------> Waiting for the big one....

        You don't think this is the big one? Has a strong whiff of VW's dieselgate (using software to avoid regulatory compliance in the pursuit of profits).

        Looking at the horrifying list of negative news that has been pouring out with regard to Uber, I'd have thought that at the very least we'll see a change of management soon enough, and the collective fines they will incur over this should be a good chunk of their market value.

        Sadly, this isn't just Uber - what we see here is the not merely amoral, but totally immoral culture that pervades Silicon Valley and the big US tech companies. The same mind set as 1990's "masters of the universe" fund managers, they honestly believe they are different, and that rules don't apply to them.

        1. a pressbutton

          using software to avoid regulatory compliance in the pursuit of profits

          .. actually worse in some ways, using software to avoid regulatory compliance in the pursuit of LOSSES!

          uber burns cash. some say that if you spend £10, it actually costs uber £14.

        2. Mark 85 Silver badge

          You don't think this is the big one? Has a strong whiff of VW's dieselgate (using software to avoid regulatory compliance in the pursuit of profits).

          Not yet. Yes this is very bad for Uber or should be. But given their seemingly Teflon coating and bottomless pit of lawyers, they'll probably weather it. Not sure what it will take for them to suddenly lose funding and be gone.

    2. m0rt

      "So isn't Uber aiding and abetting a criminal/interfering with a police investigation?"

      As much as I think that Uber are the epitome of amorality and greed and a perfect example of how not to run a company, I disagree with that statement. I don't think that because something is really handy to law enforcement to arrest someone that not being able to rely on that means they are actively being interfered with. It isn't like they have said "Hey, this is the law, give us unfettered access to your systems or else taser!". More like their job is not as easy.*

      *Although, it seems that this is now becoming an offence...at least where it wasn't before.

      1. William 3 Bronze badge

        No, this is deliberately giving false information to a police officer with an arrest warrant.

        I'm sure you'd be delighted if it was your daughter/mother/wife who'd been raped and Uber was deliberately giving the police false information to protect the rapist.

        Or how about your daughter/wife/mother was raped despite the fact the police had an arrest warrant and was deliberately hampered by Uber thus allowing the criminal to continue raping people.

        Do you have a lot shares in Uber or something? If not, you're mental, as that would be the only plausible reason I could think of why you'd defend anything like this.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          If my daughter, wife or mother was driving for uber, I'd hope that uber would try both to block rapists from hailing them from the app, and I'd also hope that they were blocking any pickups from areas where they might get into legal trouble if they made a pickup, including if such a pickup was requested by a police officer.

          1. quxinot

            Given the sheer number of rapes and sexual assaults that happen on a daily basis, blocking the cops from catching them isn't a problem--they're clearly not catching them in the first place, on the rare occasion when they are being reported (which is the bigger part of the problem).

            And the punishment for the tiny fraction that are reported, caught, and then convicted? It leaves rather a lot to be desired. I would suggest that the penalty be suggested by the victim and/or their family. It'd make for the return of "headsman" as a common occupation, I suspect.

          2. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

            If your wife or daughter was raped by an iPhone owner you would want the police to have their location - so it's vital for all phones to be tracked 24x7 by the police.

            Your home view screen should probably record you as well - in case you are doing homecrime

            1. JohnG

              "If your wife or daughter was raped by an iPhone owner you would want the police to have their location - so it's vital for all phones to be tracked 24x7 by the police."

              We aren't talking about the authorities routinely tracking everyone, we are talking about deliberately falsifying information (in this case, tracking information) when it is being sought by the police. Deliberately misleading police conducting an investigation is a criminal offence in many countries.

              if Uber wanted to remain legal, they could simply withhold the information, with a message about their Ts and Cs.

          3. Tom Paine

            Me too

            "...but as none of my female relatives are working for them, I couldn't give a flying fuck."

            Kapish?

        2. find users who cut cat tail
          Devil

          > No, this is deliberately giving false information to a police officer with an arrest warrant.

          Must play the devil advocate here. Do Uber *know* they are giving false information to a police officer with an arrest warrant? Were they shown the warrant? It's not like their app has an ‘if you are a police officer upload your warrant here’ button. AFAICT they hide based on a guess, trying to avoid the officers (like many would do in the physical world).

          BTW ‘car not showing up’ may be actually improvement of their services...

          1. P. Lee

            As much as a I dislike Uber's business practises, is no-one delighted by the delicious irony that the police can't arrest uber drivers because they refuse to break the law at police request?

            I have to think that this is an LEO power grab. If they know the uber drivers, they know the car, they can track them down like any other vehicle & owner they want, they don't need the uber app to do it.

            Its far better to have a customer-blackball mechanism and make the police use their normal procedures for catching criminals, than give the police special powers to force companies to recode applications they don't like.

            There have been some dumb comparisons with rapists in this thread. We aren't talking rapists, we're talking people who give cheap lifts. The police aren't even going after Uber, they are going after the drivers. We are talking very small fry indeed. This is the kind of story you get when you give the police quotas to fill.

  3. druck Silver badge
    Stop

    Uber meet RICO

    Lets hail down some justice.

  4. g00se

    And shortly after that, a video surfaced of CEO Travis Kalanick berating an Uber driver who complained about falling fares. ®

    Not Travis Bickell? Are you looking at me?

  5. nilfs2
    Headmaster

    All hail Uber!!

    Don't know how taxi services are in your countries, but here Uber came to solve a big problem, shitty taxi services owned by political endorses whom got a license to operate because they financed a political party, so no matter how bad the service is, there's no one to complain at.

    1. MrDamage

      Re: All hail Uber!!

      That's like accepting a bunch of criminals into your midst who will only stab you in the face with a rusty spork, because the authorities refused to do anything about the incumbent criminals who stabbed you in the face with a rusty knife.

      1. m0rt

        Re: All hail Uber!!

        Not in my case.

        My spork is plastic.

        1. hatti

          Re: All hail Uber!!

          it still hurts, plastic or not :)

        2. Ben Boyle

          Re: All hail Uber!!

          Mine too - Ka-Bar tactical spork

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: All hail Uber!!

        But at least now the rust fork stabbers are competing with the rusty knife stabbers and so no matter who you are getting stabbed by, at least competition should drive down prices?

        I've only used uber once or twice in my city, but since they arrived the competition has suddenly started giving you SMS messages when a car has been sent to pick you up, and they now even give you a website where you can track the car that's coming for you :)

        So even though I dont really use uber, their arrival has improved the behaviour of their competitors, that I do use, a lot

        1. David 45

          Re: All hail Uber!!

          The company I drive for in the UK has had the automatic text notification on its system for some time. Separate text messages for booked, despatched, arrived, complete with car make/model and its registration number (licence plate for our colonial comrades!). Also gives the driver's first name, all of which probably gives comfort to female passengers especially, to confirm that they are getting in the correct vehicle. Bear in mind that we "proper" drivers are subject to all the vigorous checks by the local authorities (and pay heavily for the privilege!) that these Uber clowns seem to be able to opt out of, for whatever reason. Car sharing they say. Twaddle. Of COURSE it's a taxi service. It's about time some firm action was taken to level the playing field, as far as these upstarts are concerned.

          1. Red Bren

            Re: All hail Uber!!

            If Uber is a lift sharing service then no money should change hands. You build up credit by giving people lifts, call them lift-miles if you like, which you can then spend on getting lifts yourself. Otherwise it's a taxi service.

            1. Kiwi

              Re: All hail Uber!!

              If Uber is a lift sharing service then no money should change hands.

              If any did it would only be for cost-sharing purposes, ie "we're both going from roughlyA to roughlyB, but I want you to contribute to cover the costs of my going out of my way, your weight adding a bit to my fuel consumption, and hey if we're doing this every day you really should pay towards it!"

              1. tiggity Silver badge

                Re: All hail Uber!!

                Actual ride share websites do exist. e.g. in UK, liftshare (liftshare.com/uk) that are "proper" ride sharing, where all someone pays is contribution to drivers costs ...Uber are taxis by any other name, not ride share as I interpret it

            2. Truckle The Uncivil

              Re: All hail Uber!!

              No money does change hands, I think. Is it not done by processing a credit card in different country?

              1. YetAnotherLocksmith

                Re: All hail Uber!!

                That's a very lawyerly response, is that! Have you been trying to use Bitcoin a little too much?

      3. maffski

        Re: All hail Uber!!

        Yes, that's exact what it's like; progress.

        People get a service they deem better, otherwise they wouldn't use it.

    2. Pascal Monett Silver badge

      Re: All hail Uber!!

      "here Uber came to solve a big problem"

      Yeah, and Pablo Escobar funded hospitals and nurseries. Swell guy, except for the hundreds of people he murdered, right ?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: All hail Uber!!

        Yeah, and Pablo Escobar funded hospitals and nurseries. Swell guy, except for the hundreds of people he murdered, right ?

        Well, if one needs a new liver, heart or kidney ..... you know, they have to get these things from somewhere?

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    And soon the cops will wise up and get the courts and the App stores to block both downloading and the usage of Uber

    1. Truckle The Uncivil

      @AC

      No, the cops will not. Nor do I want them. Nor should you. Do you really want to give police legislative authority? They have enough already.

  7. Kiwi
    Big Brother

    Cleared?

    The tool was reportedly cleared for use by Uber's legal team.

    They cleared an app that is intended to allow a suspect wanted in a criminal investigation to evade arrest?1

    Methinks they need a new legal team. Or will do soon once the current one starts finding out what can happen to lawyers who advise clients on how to evade arrest.

    1 RTFA - "...thwarts attempts by police to arrest..Uber drivers...wherever the...service is restricted or banned..."

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Cleared?

      Are they wanted in a criminal investigation though?

      From the article I thought the police were just fishing - arresting an uber driver if they turned up, as in that city uber wasn't allowed to operate?

      So - the police are trying to engineer a crime to happen, so they can make an arrest, and uber are trying to stop that crime from happening?

      I realise I just made a sweeping statement bordering on a lie, but I think that so did you. I suspect the truth is somewhere in between.

      1. Ben Tasker Silver badge

        Re: Cleared?

        > So - the police are trying to engineer a crime to happen, so they can make an arrest, and uber are trying to stop that crime from happening?

        Seems to be the position are taking, but I'd offer a small correction:

        Uber are trying to stop that crime from being detected

        Assuming that being a uber driver is a crime in city A, unless Uber are arguing there are no drivers, until the police fire up the app, then the "crime" is happening anyway, and the police are just trying to catch one in the act - much like loitering to see who tries to sell you drugs.

        Whether or not being a uber driver should be a crime is a whole other debate, but Uber's behaviour and position smacks of a self-entitled, seedy organisation who are only able to compete by ignoring the costs and restrictions that other players (rightly or wrongly) in the market have to observe. If the laws & regs are unfair, try to have them changed, don't just ignore them and deploy software to try and evade detection.

        IOW, different day, same scummy shitty Uber

        1. Charles 9 Silver badge

          Re: Cleared?

          "Assuming that being a uber driver is a crime in city A, unless Uber are arguing there are no drivers, until the police fire up the app, then the "crime" is happening anyway, and the police are just trying to catch one in the act - much like loitering to see who tries to sell you drugs."

          Or the ol' Bait Car. It's a form of honey trap operation, which if kept within the rules of engagement is admissible in court.

        2. This post has been deleted by its author

        3. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Cleared?

          "Assuming that being a uber driver is a crime in city A"

          There is a (very fine, at times) distinction between something not being lawful and it being a crime. For example, in the UK, a bye-law that says "no cycling on this path" means that cycling on a given path / track is not lawful. However the police do not arrest cyclists for committing a crime.

          In cities where driving for hire without a license is a specific crime, fine - the police should be able to arrest drivers they catch driving for payment from Uber. In cities where it is not a crime, but not explicitly lawful either, there is a grey area (until legislation in place) and people are innocent until proven guilty. If Uber are avoiding entrapment rather than evading warrants, grey area too - and it sounds like these grey areas are where Uber's legal team thinks they sit.

          Shut them down, immediately, in areas where they are breaking the law themselves or knowingly assisting others in doing so. If they are deliberately helping people evade an arrest warrant or are assisting in a crime, f*ck em.

          1. Kiwi
            Big Brother

            Re: Cleared?

            In cities where it is not a crime, but not explicitly lawful either, there is a grey area (until legislation in place) and people are innocent until proven guilty. If Uber are avoiding entrapment rather than evading warrants, grey area too - and it sounds like these grey areas are where Uber's legal team thinks they sit.

            Slight issue here.. If you're committing a crime or would normally commit a crime under certain circumstances, a cop "enticing" you to do it would not be "entrapment". From what I understand, where countries have laws about such things, the "entrapment" is when the cops entice you to commit a crime you would not normally commit. If you're illegally driving for Uber then you're already committing the crime when the cop books your car in the hopes of booking you.

            ICBW, I don't know that NZ would have such protections around entrapment. Given National's track record of changing laws when cops do illegal things to make it no longer illegal....

            1. MonkeyCee

              Re: Cleared?

              "I don't know that NZ would have such protections around entrapment. Given National's track record of changing laws when cops do illegal things to make it no longer illegal...."

              NZ cops obviously source their internal lawyers from the same source as Uber :)

              It's pretty common that the following occurs:

              1. Court case falls apart when the evidence is shown to have not been collected legally*

              2. Cops point out their lawyers said it was OK

              3. Judge points out that no-one asked the courts, and that the police lawyers are wrong

              4. Cops point out that they'll have to toss hundreds of convictions, and abandon several other prosecutions

              5. Judge says "try doing your job within the law then FFS"

              6. Cops pull strings with politicians

              7. Law gets changed to fit cops position

              * The public can take pictures in public spaces freely. The cops must still apply for warrants even if the cameras/mics are located in public, unless it's a permanently installed CCTV

          2. YetAnotherLocksmith

            Re: Cleared?

            <quote>There is a (very fine, at times) distinction between something not being lawful and it being a crime. For example, in the UK, a bye-law that says "no cycling on this path" means that cycling on a given path / track is not lawful. However the police do not arrest cyclists for committing a crime</quote>

            Except, you know, that good old Jack 'boot' Straw changed the law in the UK so all offences are arrestable - nothing is too minor. Suspicion of littering? Arrestable. Cycling on a footpath? Also arrestable.

            So now you know.

          3. tiggity Silver badge

            Re: Cleared?

            Not heard of arrests, however UK police are known to fine people for cycling on no cycling areas / on the pavements.

            A fine tradition in many UK university cities around start of first term each year is to issue lots of fines to the new naive "fresher" students using no cycling areas / taking short cut on a pavement stretch (e.g. on some one way road systems).

            New term road safety operations (though students may just regard it as a fleecing / keep these town / gown tensions nice and high)

      2. Kiwi

        Re: Cleared?

        Are they wanted in a criminal investigation though?

        From the article I thought the police were just fishing - arresting an uber driver if they turned up, as in that city uber wasn't allowed to operate?

        Well, this is how I see it. In said city it is illegal (or at least not allowed) for Uber to operate/for people to be Uber drivers. The article references "attempts by police to arrest" so it can be taken that being an Uber driver is considered a serious enough offence for an arrest to take place. The police believe Uber to be operating in the area and fire up the app - this in itself is enough to tell me that they are "investigating" even if it's "Hey Jim, can you download that Uber app and see if you get anything in our area?". That's still an investigation, even if it's done half-heartedly during a break. If nothing is found there may be no further action, not even any paper work filed, but it still would be an investigation would it not?

        If it is an investigation, and it is considered a serious enough crime that someone can be arrested for it...

        So - the police are trying to engineer a crime to happen, so they can make an arrest, and uber are trying to stop that crime from happening?

        If it's illegal to be an Uber driver, then wouldn't simply getting in your car, turning on the app and driving off intending to collect passengers be a crime? (of course it could be something where it's not actually criminal, such as building an extra shed on your property without proper consent - not normally criminal (if it's otherwise built to code) but illegal and potentially subject to fines)

        In those cases the only way for Uber to "stop that crime from happening" would be to cease operation in that area. And if they were intent on stopping crime, they would do that.

        I realise I just made a sweeping statement bordering on a lie, but I think that so did you. I suspect the truth is somewhere in between.

        No, I didn't. I made a statement based on my limited knowledge of the subject and the text within the article. Could you be more specific in what you felt I said that was "bordering on a lie"?

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Cleared?

      Why shouldn't they? Giving license and cover to let "power" do whatever "it" wants is only ever a losing proposition if your country just lost the second world war!

      John Yoo is a professor at Harvard, the rest of those gargoyles are doing quite OK too, it seems.

      http://www.salon.com/2009/05/18/torture_25/

    3. jmch Silver badge

      Re: Cleared?

      "thwarts attempts by police to arrest..Uber drivers...wherever the...service is restricted or banned."

      Surely if the police have strong enough evidence that Uber is operating, even though the service is restricted or banned in the district, they can (a) go directly after Uber rather than the individual drivers and/or (b) get a warrant/subpaena to force Uber to give them a list of drivers operating in the district in question.

      Clearly Uber are the drivers' de facto employers and therefore responsible for said drivers offering unlicensed taxi service. Even if Uber can get away through some legal loophole as "not a taxi company" / "not the drivers' employers", they are at the very least guilty of inciting their suppliers to break the law.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Mass obstruction

    > ... mass obstruction of justice.

    Otherwise known as "mass obstruction of government sponsored cartel pricing enforcers".

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    RICO

    I'm having trouble distinguishing the difference between Uber and an ongoing criminal enterprise.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: RICO

      That's because there is no difference.

      1. MrDamage

        Re: RICO

        There is according to US patent law. Everything is different when done on a mobile phone.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: RICO

      The difference is easy - uber is a company that arranges personal transportation via mobile apps and in some areas have been refused the required licencing (for various reasons) but continue to offer their service through various loopholes anyway.

      The other entity you mentioned is made from straw.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    You gotta give them credit

    In record time, Uber has put together an all-star team of moral corruption, from the investors to the CEO and then right through to the legal team and down to the country managers who are "just carrying out orders".

    Quite an impressive corporate culture they've instilled. Rotten through and through.

    1. Richard 12 Silver badge

      Re: You gotta give them credit

      It is the expected result when the upper management are evil.

      Ref. Capita.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: You gotta give them credit:

      Quite an impressive corporate culture they've instilled. Rotten through and through.

      I offer the world an addition to the dictionary:

      Uberis: noun, a vast excess of confidence that you and your over-valued, toxic cultured tech company are above all rules and social norms, enabling you to steal other people's IP, flout the law on employee rights, block law enforcement efforts, harass your direct employees and hound them with private investigators, and also swear at your own indirect employees, whilst dodging taxes as widely as possibly.

      Sadly applying to more than just this company.

      1. Truckle The Uncivil

        Re: You gotta give them credit:

        A bit too late perhaps. Have you googled the word uber?

        Wikipedia: The German prefix über can have connotations of superiority, transcendence, excessiveness, or intensity, depending on the words to which it is attached

        1. ecofeco Silver badge

          Re: You gotta give them credit:

          Uber schlect.

  11. jake Silver badge

    Now we know what that old commercial meant ...

    "Travis! You're a year too late!"

  12. MNGrrrl
    FAIL

    tbh, Uber has a point

    There's no requirement that law enforcement be given carte blanche access to everything. They've fucked up. Kindof a lot. Kill the wrong people, kick in the wrong door... lots of innocents get hurt because they think they're right when they aren't.

    And it's legal to track their whereabouts and activities with police scanner radios; Triangulating these isn't exactly hard. Same with received RF signals -- they say they can spy on our wifis, and so encryption happened. We can spy on their RF signals too... it's the same thing. Police can't do anything a citizen can't do without a warrant or legal justification -- that's how it is in the United States, at least. And there's no requirement we offer them service (or not) outside of a lawful request -- ie, a warrant.

    So Uber's right -- they're dicks, but they're right!

    1. Kiwi
      FAIL

      Re: tbh, Uber has a point

      And it's legal to track their whereabouts and activities with police scanner radios;

      That may be legal. However, in every country in the world it is illegal to do an activity which is illegal under the law. If Uber operates in a country where Uber is not legally allowed to operate, then Uber is operating illegaly. Are you able to follow that?

      In some countries being a driver for Uber means you are comitting a crime which makes you subject to immediate arrest if caught (RTFA for a cite).

      Furthermore, in every country in the world, it is a crime to knowingly act to hamper the police in their attempts to arrest a suspect in a crime.

      If drug runners or paedos or whatever were using sometime like this to evade capture, I'm sure you'd be screaming a different tune. And yes, it is the same thing. In one case, an app is used by criminals to evade capture. In the other case, an app is used by other criminals to evade capture.

      1. Mage Silver badge
        Devil

        Re: legal to track their whereabouts and activities with police scanner radios

        In many countries it may be legal to listen*, but illegal to act on the information or communicate it to a 3rd party. In some democracies it's also illegal to listen.

        In many countries the use of Greyball would be illegal.

        [*Tetra and use of Mobile make listening in very difficult, no scanner generally available supports that]

      2. Sel

        Re: tbh, Uber has a point

        "Furthermore, in every country in the world, it is a crime to knowingly act to hamper the police in their attempts to arrest a suspect in a crime."

        Except in this case the police are requesting a crime happens by attempting to get uber to direct a car to them in an area where it is illegal. Uber are failing to commit the crime on demand. This is not hampering police as the crime didn't happen so the police have no suspect. The shady bit is that they only fail to commit the crime when law enforcement ask, any other time they're perfectly happy to break the law.

        The police will have to do it the old fashioned way and follow drivers they think are suspects and establish that they are breaking the law by gathering evidence.

        1. Ben Tasker Silver badge

          Re: tbh, Uber has a point

          And yet, in many jurisdictions, Police can still legitimately buy drugs via a broker (who never touches or possesses the product) and then lock him up.

          It's not entrapment to be the buyer of an illegal service/product. To claim entrapment, you have to show they enticed you to do something you wouldn't normally be willing to do. Being logged into Uber as a driver somewhat undermines that claim.

          In other words, you're talking crap. It's fine for the old bill to order an Uber and then nick the driver (though jurisdictions vary so ymmv). Whether it's ok for Uber to hamper that is another thing, but even if they're technically in the right, I don't see this playing out in their favour

        2. katrinab Silver badge

          Re: tbh, Uber has a point

          Doing test purchases is the "old fashioned" way of investigating this sort of crime.

          1. Charles 9 Silver badge

            Re: tbh, Uber has a point

            Put it this way. If bait cars are legal, so is this. Look up "honey trap".

        3. Kiwi
          FAIL

          Re: tbh, Uber has a point

          "Furthermore, in every country in the world, it is a crime to knowingly act to hamper the police in their attempts to arrest a suspect in a crime."

          Except in this case the police are requesting a crime happens by attempting to get uber to direct a car to them in an area where it is illegal. Uber are failing to commit the crime on demand.

          If being an uber driver is illegal, then the moment you set out in your car with the intention of picking someone else up as a uber passenger you are committing a crime, or at the very least intending to commit one. I wonder if "conspiracy" can be charged here as well, as the people involved have a fairly sophisticated network including tools intended to let them spy on officers of the law, tools to evade capture and so on.

          Only in a few jurisdictions are cops "not allowed" to "entrap", and even then in many cases they can still get away with it, especially in the US (otherwise how would FBI agents get away with posing as teenagers/drug buyers/people wanting to hire hitmen etc in chat rooms?)

          This is not hampering police as the crime didn't happen so the police have no suspect.

          So drug pushers are only selling drugs if they sell to cops? Burglaries only happen if it's a police station that's hit? No? You mean it's possible that people commit crimes involving other people? Could it also be possible that an Uber driver commits a crime when they take someone else on as a passenger in these countries, someone who isn't a cop? </sarc>

          The police will have to do it the old fashioned way and follow drivers they think are suspects and establish that they are breaking the law by gathering evidence.

          Maybe you forgot to read the article? The bit wot says "...Greyball displayed fake "ghost" cars on the map in the smartphone application to fool cops..." (not that fooling cops is necessarily difficult...) The app has a function specifically designed to help defeat this, which perhaps starts to open up "evidence tampering" charges as well as the fact that it is helping someone engaged in a criminal enterprise to evade capture. If being an uber driver is illegal, then it is illegal whether you pick up a cop or pick up someone else. Like selling drugs, it's still illegal even if you don't sell to cops.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: tbh, Uber has a point

            You are seriously comparing drug dealing to giving someone a ride for cash? Just think about your comparison for a moment.

            Spirit of the law vs letter of the law? Where I'm from if the law is an ass, you point it out at every opportune moment, it's open for ridicule. I'm guessing where you are from if the law is an ass, you pucker up and kiss it.

            In some areas being gay is a crime. Yet people engaged in it because the law is an ass. 70 odd years ago being Jewish was a crime in parts of Europe, the government of the time decided that eradication was preferable to prosecution. I'm guessing that you are fully supportive of their actions at the time because it was the law?

            Kiwi, downvote and self-upvote all you want, you are an ass, your thoughts are an ass.

            1. Kiwi
              WTF?

              Re: tbh, Uber has a point

              You are seriously comparing drug dealing to giving someone a ride for cash? Just think about your comparison for a moment.

              No, I'm comparing people doing illegal things for profit with other people doing other illegal things for profit, and other people doing things to prevent those crimes being caught.

              I'm also one of those who believe that drug users should not be subject to arrest or charges merely for using (because drug users usually get that way due to other factors), and only that drug sellers (and makers) should be subject to arrest/charges. Also while never having used it, I am a supporter of legalising cannabis.

              Spirit of the law vs letter of the law? Where I'm from if the law is an ass, you point it out at every opportune moment, it's open for ridicule. I'm guessing where you are from if the law is an ass, you pucker up and kiss it.

              If I disagree with a law I may protest it, I may even break it. If I get arrested for breaking it then fair cop. I have fought for changes for things to be legal and illegal. You'll see from my posting history that I advocate free speech and don't want to see any criminalisation of "hate speech" for a start. But I also generally advocate following the law, protesting it sure but follow it. Hard to protest a law from in prison, and when you're someone with an arrest record your testimony on a lot of things is tarnished. An advocate for legalising cannabis who is a dealer with a long arrest record isn't going to get much public sympathy, but someone who strictly stays within the law and is (or at least appears) absolutely clean however is going to win a lot more support. Oh, you can also see from my history that I stand up for people putting their resources into having laws changed, even when I am on the other side of the change they want.

              In some areas being gay is a crime. Yet people engaged in it because the law is an ass.

              Really? I though we "engaged in it" because some genetic variances or something in how we were brought up (or more likely a combination of the two) made us prefer same sex partners over the other sex. I never knew when I engaged in "homosexual acts" as a wee lad that I was doing it "because the law is an ass", even when I wasn't aware of laws about such things.

              Of all the fucked up, retarded statements about being gay being a "choice", yours must be about the stupidest out there. Does it hurt being so messed up in the head? Or is it only thinking that hurts you?

              Do you have any idea what it could be like growing up in a nation where people are hated for being gay, or even for being perceived to be gay? Especially at a time when it was illegal? Do you know what that sort of abuse does to a person? Knowing that when you get assaulted by a group of other kids at school, if you go to staff about it you're likely to also get the cane (maybe by several of them) at the very least in their attempts to "beat it out of you", and perhaps because you were telling tales on other kids who were "only doing their duty"?

              Do you have any clue on what you were posting about? Are you really so stupid as to believe that people chose to be gay "because the law is an ass."?

              Real brave of you to make such statements and to have the balls to stand behind them. Oh, wait, you posted anonymously. I can see why too, you're obviously ashamed to stand behind your post.

              Oh, I have a Jewish heritage as well, and am quite supportive of the nation of Israel (not necessarily of the actions of the government).

              Kiwi, downvote and self-upvote all you want, you are an ass, your thoughts are an ass.

              I'm not aware of any method on El Reg where you can "self-upvote"? But anyway, I may (at least at times) be "an ass", but that is better than being whatever the hell it is you are.

              El Reg, I ask that you keep both my post and the OP's post, despite any desire to moderate it. I'd like people to see some of the messed up thinking that is still around (and yes, even if that means mine) I'd also love to know how one can "self-upvote" since I am really quite close to a silver badge now!

            2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge
              Facepalm

              Re: tbh, Uber has a point

              "You are seriously comparing drug dealing to giving someone a ride for cash? Just think about your comparison for a moment."

              You are seriously comparing "the law is an ass" with the holocaust? Just think about your comparison for a moment.

              Twat!

      3. Aqua Marina

        Re: tbh, Uber has a point

        "If Uber operates in a country where Uber is not legally allowed to operate, then Uber is operating illegaly. Are you able to follow that?".

        By your logic if the police set up a speed trap on my way to work, and I decide that day to change my route because of that, I should be arrested for avoiding the speed trap, because I normally speed on my way to work.

        You're forgetting innocent unless proven guilty. Uber like most career criminals known to the police, are probably up to something they shouldn't be. But because we live in a civilised society, we just can't round people up based on "They are up to something". Likewise in the same civilised society, you can't set up a trap, then round up all the usual suspects who fail to fall into it. Due process and all that.

        Are you able to follow that?

        1. Kiwi

          Re: tbh, Uber has a point

          "If Uber operates in a country where Uber is not legally allowed to operate, then Uber is operating illegaly. Are you able to follow that?".

          By your logic if the police set up a speed trap on my way to work, and I decide that day to change my route because of that, I should be arrested for avoiding the speed trap, because I normally speed on my way to work.

          WTF? Seriously? Seriously? Please tell us what you're smoking so we can avoid it!

          BTW, have you read any of the US "obstruction of justice" laws? :

          The laws that supplement, and sometimes mirror, the basic six tend to proscribe a particular means of obstruction. Some, like the perjury and false statement statutes, condemn obstruction by lies and deception. Others, like the bribery, mail fraud, and wire fraud statutes, prohibit obstruction by corruption of public employees or officials. Some outlaw the use of violence as a means of obstruction. Still others ban the destruction of evidence. A few simply punish “tipping off” those who are the targets of an investigation. (emphasis mine)

          So in the US (and many countries with similar legal systems), if you're "tipping off" someone to the fact that they're the target of an investigation (like this app reportedly can do), you're guilty of obstruction of justice. Which is a crime that usually carries a possible prison sentence.. What's that say for your "due process" and "civilised society" twaddle?

          From the same link, next paragraph, "and each provides the basis for criminal prosecution of anyone who aids and abets in or conspires for their commission." So that would be the app developers done then too. Wonder if Google/Apple can be done for having these apps in their stores?

          You're forgetting innocent unless proven guilty. Uber like most career criminals known to the police, are probably up to something they shouldn't be. But because we live in a civilised society, we just can't round people up based on "They are up to something".

          All over the world, including in the US and the UK, cops set up "stings" where they attempt to catch people doing illegal things. How else do you think they catch criminals? Wait for them to come into the police station and make a full confession?

          All over the world people are caught out in stings because "they are up to something".

          Likewise in the same civilised society, you can't set up a trap, then round up all the usual suspects who fail to fall into it.

          No? Really? Positive? Are you sure? Are you certain? Really really sure? (NOTE: I do not know of most of these sites so cannot say for sure their articles are trustworthy. I did avoid Daily Mail, Guardian, Stuff and several other sites where I know or suspect they're 95% bullshit)

          Due process and all that.

          Can you say "Guantanamo"? "Extraordinary rendition"? "Shot on sight"? "Detained for questioning" (part of "due process" but also part of a normal arrest procedure, and a lot of people detained for questioning are let off without further interest from the police once the police believe they're innocent or not worth going after)? Most countries have heard of "due process", and think it's a wonderful joke. Most police forces know that they can tell a judge that they're awaiting/processing further evidence but you're such a danger to society that you must be locked up, and the judge will agree. They know that they can keep you inside for a long time awaiting trial and have all sorts of delays right up until the last possible trial date, then drop the charges (in NZ you must be released after something like 2 years I believe - civil rights laws that say you must get a trial "in a reasonable time"). Yes, your wonderful "due process" means an innocent person can spend years inside on charges that wouldn't take more than a minute to see through, all due to "due process".

          Care to try again?

      4. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: tbh, Uber has a point

        "If Uber operates in a country where Uber is not legally allowed to operate, then Uber is operating illegaly."

        That's not strictly true. If what you are doing is not legal, it is not automatically illegal. [ There is also the distinction between legal and lawful - the words do not mean the same thing,] As you have said, if it's illegal under the law then it's illegal - no argument from me there.. Conversely, If it's legal, then it's legal - again, no argument to be made. Things that fall between the two, though, are not (and should not be) illegal by default.

        1. Charles 9 Silver badge

          Re: tbh, Uber has a point

          By my understanding, at least under US law, an act is by default legal until it is declared illegal by law, and ONLY for future commissions (retrospective laws are prohibited). Perhaps you can elaborate on what kinds of acts can be neither legal nor illegal.

        2. Kiwi

          Re: tbh, Uber has a point

          "If Uber operates in a country where Uber is not legally allowed to operate, then Uber is operating illegaly."

          That's not strictly true. If what you are doing is not legal, it is not automatically illegal.

          It's true that in most Western nations (or so I believe) that if something isn't prohibited by law then it's legal, and in some nations what isn't allowed by law is automatically illegal.. But one of the things with law, especially in Western nations, is that there's just so damned much law these days. Often things get covered that weren't intended when the law was written, and sometimes there's things that people don't give a thought to that is covered (dumblaws.com probably have examples a-plenty of this)

          When Uber started in NZ I believe they were here largely as a "ride sharing service", not as a for-profit service. But that's what it became - people giving up their other jobs to become full-time Uber drivers, or doing it part-time outside of other work hours. What these people maybe don't realise is that probably falls foul of NZ's laws around taxi services, which have some fairly strict vetting requirements for a start. As a ride-sharing app Uber would be fine. As a taxi service, there are requirements that need to be met, and penalties for anyone caught driving or operating a taxi company without meeting them. Penalties that, I understand, can involve jail time.

    2. This post has been deleted by a moderator

  13. J.Smith

    Shocked

    A horrible corporate culture doing criminal acts, I'm shocked. Next they'll be tax evading.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Shocked

      Of course they are evading tax by simple making a stonking great loss.

      Naturally there is a complex series of licensing deals behind the scenes that ensures that this loss is like a Hollywood Epic (Huge) while those at the top can buy Boats, planes and all the other trappings of the Tax Wealthy.

      Uber is a 4 letter word and everything about it should be consigned to the bin as Crap.

  14. katrinab Silver badge

    That would explain

    why my local council has only managed to prosecute one Über driver when they are literally everywhere, about 50 of them loitering around the shopping centre at any one time.

    Anyone here can set up a minicab firm if they comply with the licencing requirements. Über were refused a licence because they did not comply with the requirements. They decided to start operating anyway using their London licence. London registered cabs can pick people up here if they are going to London, and firms that specialise in the Airport market quite often do that. For that reason, the police can't arrest them just for having a TfL licence sticker on their rear window, as they might be waiting for a booking to go to Heathrow, or I suppose people from London might go shopping here and want to take a cab back home.

    1. Steve Davies 3 Silver badge

      Re: That would explain

      so the local council/plod get in one and get it to take them to somewhere in the other direction from London.

      If they agree then they are operating illegally.

      How about getting the driver to take them to the Police Station?

      1. katrinab Silver badge

        Re: That would explain

        Well yes, that is what Greyball is designed to defeat.

        If I load up my Addison Lee app, they will quite happily let me book a cab to Heathrow. I have to wait 47 mins for it to arrive though. If I try to book it to the local town centre, it won't even let me enter the address. Über will presumably behave like that if they think I am a cop or council official, however they evidently don't think so, so they quote me £8-£11 to get there. Minicabit, who use properly licenced cabs, gives me quotes from two different firms, one for £12.96 and one for £13.01. Unlike Über, if I chose one of those quotes, that is the price I will pay regardless of how long the journey takes, though they will have a good idea what traffic conditions are like at the moment, and they will have taken that into consideration when calculating their quote.

  15. This post has been deleted by its author

  16. Will 28

    I'm more interested to know where they're getting their data from

    Are plods phone details formally registered somewhere? Blocking your drivers from performing an illegal act sounds ok, selectively doing it doesn't. Tracking law enforcement officials all around the world based on their phone details sounds like their accessing a source of information that really shouldn't be available / isn't legally available.

    It's possible that they're just recording details after they've been stung once, but that sounds a little bit too easy to circumvent.

    1. Charles 9 Silver badge

      Re: I'm more interested to know where they're getting their data from

      According to other sources, Uber can get pretty aggressive. They look up publicly-known details about officers and so on, use GPS to check for requests from known government facilities, and so on. According to the BBC version of the article, Uber employees even go to cell phone companies in order to catch plods trying to buy burner phones in an attempt to cover their tracks.

  17. Zog_but_not_the_first
    Unhappy

    Criminality...

    The "new normal".

  18. sysconfig

    Bad press vs no press...

    They say bad press is better than none at all. Uber really embraced this concept.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Bad press vs no press...

      i hate to give publicity to the fool, but Paul Nuttall has them beat on that score. At least in the UK over last few weeks, anyway ...

  19. DrXym Silver badge

    I'm sure this will look good in front of the judge

    Not only did they break the law, but they did so knowingly and even attempted to assist drivers evade enforcement.

    As for enforcers, it would seem the simple countermeasure is to buy some burner phones and gift cards and use them until they stop working.

    1. katrinab Silver badge

      Re: I'm sure this will look good in front of the judge

      Their software detects the use of burner phones etc.

      1. Kiwi

        Re: I'm sure this will look good in front of the judge

        Their software detects the use of burner phones etc.

        Any idea how that could work, or is it a feature of your phone networks that we don't have in NZ?

        Here one vodafone mobile is just like another, but one might be the latest iPhone with a proper account whereas the other might be a cheap $20 phone and a sim bought with cash at the local bigbox. I'm not aware of any phone features that could determine this except if someone has their cell number listed in the phone directory and Uber (or others) do a reverse lookup.

        I would not be surprised if government agencies can tell a bit more about a phone though.

        I'd be interested in knowing about anything that can tell the difference.

        1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

          Re: I'm sure this will look good in front of the judge

          "I'd be interested in knowing about anything that can tell the difference."

          It's likely to be inferences from collected data. eg a "new" number Uber hasn't seen before, a new account, the app only recently installed etc. The app almost certainly requires pretty much full access to the phone, so probably also knows there are few if any contacts stored, no SMS history and probably more.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: I'm sure this will look good in front of the judge

          "Any idea how that could work, or is it a feature of your phone networks that we don't have in NZ?"

          The IMEI, for starters, since they're assigned to the phones, so there will be a way to tell if a given phone is a smart phone. Feature phones can be ignored as they can't install the Uber app.

        3. katrinab Silver badge

          Re: I'm sure this will look good in front of the judge

          Things like, if it is the cheapest landfill Android you can buy in the local phone shop, near me that is the Alcatel Pixi 3 - £25 + £15 PAYG credit, the credit card you use to register your Über account, and if the location data shows that you often spend time near the police station or transport commissioner office.

          1. Kiwi

            Re: I'm sure this will look good in front of the judge

            Thanks to John Brown, AC and Katrinab - makes sense with these or a combination of them, especially looking at the history on the phone plus location data (theoretically easy to defeat of course, but does take some time to fake a profile).

            My smartphone sits mostly discharged by the computer (since the moment you think of calling someone the battery drains 90%) and I generally use a dumbphone that can give me a few days standby and several hours talk. I'd forgotten about the access some apps want to ask for, and also didn't realise you need a CC for Uber (CC use is still relatively rare in NZ).

            Now I can see how it could be done, makes it a lot more obvious that it'd be reasonable trivial.

            Thanks.

            1. Charles 9 Silver badge

              Re: I'm sure this will look good in front of the judge

              "My smartphone sits mostly discharged by the computer (since the moment you think of calling someone the battery drains 90%) and I generally use a dumbphone that can give me a few days standby and several hours talk. I'd forgotten about the access some apps want to ask for, and also didn't realise you need a CC for Uber (CC use is still relatively rare in NZ)."

              Uber has pay-with-cash prepaid cards, though, at least in the US (saw one loaded just yesterday). Does Uber require you to register in order to use those?

  20. Mario Becroft
    Flame

    An alternate perspective

    For better or worse, Uber is doing what it must to survive in a hostile environment.

    Whatever the management issues at Uber, they actually provide a great service. Disruptive technology and business models are what we need to move the world forward.

    A mobility-impaired friend of mine has had a new lease on life since Uber came to her city. Do you want to take that away?

    Bring on the flames!

    1. Commswonk

      Re: An alternate perspective

      For better or worse, Uber is doing what it must to survive in a hostile environment.

      It's worse.

      You do realise that your statement could be used by anyone who breaks into houses to steal whatever takes their fancy, or mugs people in street robberies to steal their wallets / purses; "You can't touch me I'm trying to survive in a hostile environment."

      You are giving permission to anyone who doesn't want to conform to regulatory constraints an excuse to ignore them just because they feel like it.

      Disruptive technology and business models are what we need to move the world forward. That way lies anarchy. It might seem "fun" for now but carried to its logical conclusion the results could be quite messy.

      Would you really want it to get this bad?

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Taxi_wars_in_South_Africa,

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Glasgow_Ice_Cream_Wars,

      or any turf war between competing interests, irrespective of the exact "theme"

    2. Kiwi
      Pint

      Re: An alternate perspective

      For better or worse, Uber is doing what it must to survive in a hostile environment.

      Even when it means actively helping people avoid arrest for something deemed illegal?

      Whatever the management issues at Uber, they actually provide a great service. Disruptive technology and business models are what we need to move the world forward.

      Not all Uber drivers are great, but then the same can be said for taxi drivers, bus drivers, ambulance officers, police officers and so on.

      A mobility-impaired friend of mine has had a new lease on life since Uber came to her city. Do you want to take that away?

      Not all of us are advocating a removal of Uber, or Uber-like services :)

      But...

      There are laws in place around taxi services and licensing and so on. A part of the reasoning for these laws in some countries is so that you can't have a convicted sex offender drunk women up from bars late at night - the licensing schemes are intended to give some level of trust in the driver. Also there's probably often some laws around hours of work and so on, eg would you want someone picking your disabled friend up when the driver hasn't had more than the odd hour of sleep here and there for the last 4 or 5 days?

      Uber however has a reputation for avoiding such licensing for its drivers, in part because these schemes are often quite costly but it at least appears that they often reject the laws simply because they want to reject them (it may also be a precedent thing, ie if in NZ they agree that are a taxi service and make all their drivers get a proper taxi license, then the UK government can argue that Uber UK must also be a taxi service and therefore subject to such laws). That's where the issues lie for some of us.

      I have friends who are/have been Uber drivers. Good, responsible drivers, making a little bit of extra money on the way too/from their day job. Much like a lot of other private car-pooling schemes. In this case their use of Uber is little more than someone posting on Facebook "I'm going to x on day, if anyone also wants a ride to share travel costs please contact". And I understand that our taxi licenses cost a hell of a lot too, and if Uber could help bring that down so we can get people with legitimate licenses but not spending the next decade paying for it.. But when it comes to some dodgy person cruising bars for drunk women at night making use of their association with Uber? Then there's a problem I'd like addressed.

      HTH..

      1. Mario Becroft

        Re: An alternate perspective

        Precisely my point. What is so wrong about a company, Uber or another, creating an app connecting people who need transportation with those who can provide it, enabling people to more efficiently use their cars, reduce congestion, and provide transportation to persons who could never have afforded it before.

        If you don't like Uber conecting buyers and sellers of transportation, what about ebay connecting buyers and sellers of goods etc.

        I don't get the point about how the concept of an app that connects drivers and passengers to enable carpooling etc. can have so many ethical issues in some peoples' eyes.

        Clearly, Uber could have executed better in this instance, but actually everyone I know who has used Uber has only good things to say about the service--easier to use app, more prompt, and cheaper than any of the established taxicab operators in the city where I live.

        I don't understand what some people believe is fundamentally wrong with this.

        1. Ben Tasker Silver badge

          Re: An alternate perspective

          > I don't get the point about how the concept of an app that connects drivers and passengers to enable carpooling etc. can have so many ethical issues in some peoples' eyes.

          Probably, in part, because the reason Uber are competitive is because they ignore regulations that others in the market have to abide by. Some of those regulations might be crap, but otjers are there for good reason (there's a prime example just above your post), and there's a long-term harm if everyone ignores some of those regulations. Most cities, for example, require decent background checks to make sure the new taxi driver isn't a known serial rapist. Guess what Uber doesn't do properly?

          But, a big part of it is actually Uber themselves. With each article, it should be becoming increadingly clear that they're shitheads. Other similar businesses (like Lyft) seem to have had far fewer issues, it's almost like Uber's arrogant attitude brings some of this shit about.

          Between posts analysing the use of Uber to get home from one night stands, surge pricing during active shooter incidents, refusing to follow basic driver vetting procedures, and actively blocking government investigations, Uber are a PR disaster.

          Basically, there's more to value of a service than just the price you pay, and Uber are skipping some fairly important stuff - its just that that stuff tends to be unnoticed until something goes wrong

        2. Kiwi
          Pint

          Re: An alternate perspective

          I don't get the point about how the concept of an app that connects drivers and passengers to enable carpooling etc. can have so many ethical issues in some peoples' eyes.

          Were it just car-pooling or ride-sharing, then I think that most of the issues would've never happened. But there are those who have attempted to make Uber-driving a full-time job.

          As Ben Tasker and others point out, Uber are dodging a lot of the regulations other firms have to comply with, and there've been a number of other issues as well. The drivers should be reasonably vetted of such things are a requirement for taxi drivers, they should have proper insurance for drivers who are on the road a lot (and thus more likely to be involved in an accident - not necessarily at fault but the more you drive the greater the odds), and various other things other people have to comply with to drive passengers around as their profession.

          An app that lets you share a ride with someone going the same way? Great. And app that lets you hire a wanna-be taxi driver who has not gone through the proper tests? Not so good.

          And for those I know who drive for or have used Uber, I am not aware of having heard any complaints.

          1. katrinab Silver badge

            Re: An alternate perspective

            But the problem is this: If I want to find people going the same way as me when I drive to work in the morning, Über is of no use at all. Über is not a ride sharing service. BlaBlaCar is.

        3. MonkeyCee

          Re: An alternate perspective

          "I don't get the point about how the concept of an app that connects drivers and passengers to enable carpooling etc. can have so many ethical issues in some peoples' eyes."

          Because companies that provide these services already exist, chiefly taxis and minicabs/private hire vehicles. There are existing, often quite extensive, laws and regulations that cover them, the vehicles they use, and the people who drive them.

          Uber avoids some to all of these, whilst taking the business from the existing companies. It also pushes a lot of the compliance issues that would normally be expected to be taken on by the company onto it's drivers.

          So while the current systems are not perfect, and there are no doubt real problems with deliberate shortage of NY taxi medallions, or with sexual predators driving taxis, Uber won't help (and will make worse) the safety aspect, whilst *probably* improving the market aspect.

          Uber is cheaper because it isn't complying with rules that add extra cost (access for mobility impaired persons etc) and because they pay their subcontracted drivers less than normal taxi drivers. So by cutting corners and lying about what they are doing they gain an advantage over the law abiding competition.

          Why they're still making a loss is a bit of a mystery, since they should be quids in, less their legal bills.

    3. katrinab Silver badge

      Re: An alternate perspective

      Über were banned where I live because they don't meet the requirements for mobility impaired passengers. If they drive the other minicab firms out of business then we will be taking that away.

    4. Roj Blake

      Re: An alternate perspective

      "A mobility-impaired friend of mine has had a new lease on life since Uber came to her city. Do you want to take that away?"

      How do you think your friend will get on after Uber have driven the local taxi firms out of business, ramp up their prices and then start using driverless cars?

  21. wayne 8

    How did illegally operating get to be rape?

    How did this story get to be about Uber drivers raping mothers, wives, daughters, sisters, girl friends, et al.?

    I doubt that if they want to arrest a Uber rapist, the authorities wouldn't be using the app to hail a random nearby Uber.

    I would be more worried about someone giving illegal pink mustache rides to strangers.

    1. Ben Tasker Silver badge

      Re: How did illegally operating get to be rape?

      Its probably the product of other recent news stories about Uber (including that they let a known rapist drive because they refuse to do basic background checks, then after it was reported to them that he'd raped a passenger, they continued to let him drive - allegedly).

      Or it could be that some of the regulations that Uber willfully ignore are there to try and help protect passengers, including against things like rape etc.

      So although the old bill might not be actively hunting a "uber rapist", the people they are trying catch probably haven't been vetted properly (if at all). Doesn't mean any of them are rapists, but checks haven't been done, so they might be, and it's probably better to find out before their first solo female fare finds out the hard way. Which means they either have to go through the background check procedure (which Uber won't) or they need to be pulled off the road (which is what the fuzz are trying to do)

      Of course, all that applies to a bunch of other stuff (like not having appropriate insurance cover etc) too

      Plus, at this point, lets be honest. Uber and rape are pretty closely entwined

    2. GrumpyKiwi
      Childcatcher

      Re: How did illegally operating get to be rape?

      Luckily the existence of regulators for the Taxi industry has meant that no taxi driver has ever robbed, raped, murdered or assaulted their passengers... (rolls eyes).

      Whereas the evil Uber only bans their drivers if they get six negative feedbacks which can a does include giving off a creepy vibe. Gosh yes, the regulators are far superior to that method. (still rolling eyes).

      1. Truckle The Uncivil

        Re: How did illegally operating get to be rape?

        @GrumpyiKiwi

        Yes, the regulators do it better. I drove cabs for a bit. I mostly had very happy customers and was the champion of tips. But with a six strikes rule I would have been gone in a year. The customer is not always right. It would also be easy for someone to be vindictive and organise six strikes from their friends. So, no Uber does not do it "better".

      2. Ben Tasker Silver badge

        Re: How did illegally operating get to be rape?

        > Luckily the existence of regulators for the Taxi industry has meant that no taxi driver has ever robbed, raped, murdered or assaulted their passengers... (rolls eyes).

        The mechanism isn't 100% effective, so lets just do away with it? Might as well disable your firewalls then, as compromises still happen even with them there.

        No-one can predict what another might do in future, but the point in the vetting regulations is to ensure those already convicted of certain crimes aren't given access to easy victims (like drunk female passengers)

        The taxi regulators do a reasonable job of that, Uber on the other hand seem to be letting even the low hanging fruit through.

        Neither can really be blamed for the "normal" drivers who just snap one day, but that's not what the regulations are there to protect against either.

        One of those drivers who just randomly snap could conceivably be barred from traditional taxis, but still allowed to drive for Uber. That seem right to you?

        1. GrumpyKiwi

          Re: How did illegally operating get to be rape?

          You missed the point. The point is that Uber is MORE effective than the regulators at getting rid of rogue drivers. Which appears to be what the regulators hate the most - the threat of losing their comfy jobs that don't actually involve doing that much in exchange for long lunches at taxi company expense.

          1. Kiwi

            Re: How did illegally operating get to be rape?

            The point is that Uber is MORE effective than the regulators at getting rid of rogue drivers.

            Yes.

            A Convicted Sex Offender Without a License Has Been Driving for Uber in Boston

            "In recent weeks, several Uber drivers have been charged with various types of assault and rape (including drivers in Arizona, Hawaii and Delaware). These cases—especially one involving a driver found to have an extensive violent criminal record after being charged with attempted murder—have raised serious concern about the company’s screening processes, or lack thereof."

            I'm sure you're right though...

            Sex Offenders and a Convicted Murderer Passed Uber's Background Check

            "Ride hailing company Uber has allowed dozens of convicted criminals to slip through its background check process, California prosecutors are alleging this week."

            Ok, maybe you're right still.. Then again no, maybe a re-think is needed?

            Uber driver checks gave green lights to murderer and sex offenders, regulators claim

            "The district attorneys of San Francisco and Los Angeles escalated their fight with the ride-share service on Tuesday in a revised lawsuit that faults the company for giving the public false assurances that its drivers are safe. The criminal histories of some drivers didn’t come to light until they were cited for violations while picking up airport passengers or street hails, the officials said. "

            Usual disclaimers, don't read the sites and also they could be referring to the same stuff. Spend a couple of seconds with the search engine of your choice and look at reports from around the world about how great Uber's vetting system is at keeping people with nasty convictions out (but no issues with points on their license - you don't need a current license to drive for Uber it seems, let alone a current and clean one!). Yes, Uber are doing such a great job with their vetting.

  22. ecofeco Silver badge

    They are all taxis

    tax·i

    ˈtaksē/

    noun

    noun: taxi; plural noun: taxis

    1.

    short for taxicab.

    a boat or other means of transportation used to convey passengers in return for payment of a fare.

    That this is, and was, even debatable is absurd.

  23. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Here we go again

    Hate from cabbies that were caught napping. Uber is a great service, why would i want to use a smelly, anonymous​ cab?

    1. Kiwi
      FAIL

      Re: Here we go again

      why would i want to use a smelly, anonymous​ cab?

      In NZ : Taxi's must be part of a taxi company, no private firms (though most are owner-drivers they must belong to the corporate body). Each cab must have it's company registration displayed clearly.

      There are driver vetting procedures handled by the police, with significant penalties including the possibility of prison time for both the driver and company.

      There are standards for the company - probably insurance cover standards and vehicle quality/roadworthyness standards. A vehicle can be ordered off the road and even impounded if the police feel it fails to meet legal standards. When they order a vehicle off the road it gets a bright pink sticker on front and back to make it obvious, and removing the sticker is another significant fine.

      There is competition among firms to have nice and clean cabs.

      There are standards on local area knowledge as well.

      Taxis in NZ have to have surveillance cameras fitted IIRC, to protect both driver and passengers (due to a spate of attacks on drivers a few years back IIRC)

      Uber? Vehical may not be up to standard. You have no way of knowing if the driver is even licensed or not. They could be someone with a significant criminal history including burglary (great way to case houses, turn on your Uber app late on a Friday or Saturday night, take drunk people home, you get to know where they live, could "kindly" help them inside if they're falling-down drunk, get ideas about any others living there, you get the idea), no corporate oversight or pressure from other drivers with their company to help lift the company image. Their car could be a deathtrap with who-knows-what left over from the last passenger, or the driver. And no competition because anyone with a car and smartphone can do it.

      Taxi : Set-in-law standards for cars including safety testing and maintenance, set-in-law vetting standards for drivers, corporate policies on promptness, clealiness of vehicle etc, requirement for monitoring for occupants safety etc, legal requirements to have a significant level of local knowledge.

      Uber : Who knows what you'll get. Could be someone in a clapped-out Mark 1 zephyr, with a missing passenger floor with near-by exhaust leak that fills the cabin with fumes, door missing handles, a serial-rapist/burglar/whatever at the wheel who just this morning got out of prison after being inside for some years, and they're using their mate's uber account.

      None of the Uber drivers I've known personally meet this bill, but there's no guarantee that if I was to use it I'd get someone like them. But if I hail a cab, I do know there's minimum requirements and I can have their license suspended if the driver, company or car fails to meet any one of them.

      Why would I risk hiring a smelly druggie who hasn't even heard of bathing, in an even smellier car, when I can pay a couple of bucks more and get a nice ride in a nice car with a nice drive?

    2. J.G.Harston Silver badge

      Re: Here we go again

      But... an Uber taxi *IS* an anonymous cab. It's whatever the dispatch centre happens to have available for you.

      And I don't know about taxi licensing over the pond, but in the UK the licensing authorities can confiscate the dispatch centre's dispatch records to determine what a driver has been booked for and what locations he has been in. And be clear - Uber are NOT a tech company, they are a bog standard taxi dispatch centre. Nothing more. The internet is just today's messenger boy.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Here we go again

      why would i want to use a smelly, anonymous​ cab?

      Because, for example, when some cunt torpedoes your fine uber ride and you die horribly or end up in a wheelchair there will be no insurance to pay either you or your bereaved family compensation, which will easily run into millions.

      Guaranteed that an Uber driver does not have this kind of money and him using a private insurance for business purposes ....assuming he has an insurance .... is not exactly the winning ticket when it goes to court: He will be personally liable and you / family will get Zero.

  24. W4YBO

    State licensing

    My state requires professional licenses for florists, hairdressers and barbers, interior decorators, handymen, and limousine services. If you make a nuisance of yourself in one of these vocations without licensure, you'll be issued a citation with a court date. The citation will also have a proscribed fine if you want to plead guilty and mail it in. It seems a bit heavy-handed to me to jump straight to arresting the Uber drivers for the equivalent of a misdemeanor traffic citation.

    And what about entrapment? After all, the officer is requesting an illegal service.

    1. Ben Tasker Silver badge

      Re: State licensing

      > And what about entrapment? After all, the officer is requesting an illegal service.

      That's not, and never has been, what entrapment is.

      If a copper buys drugs off you, that's not entrapment.

      If a copper strongly encourages you to start dealing, then buys some off you and nicks you, that can be argued as entrapment.

      To claim entrapment, you need to be able to show (a court) that the police officer convinced you to do something you wouldn't ordinarily have done of your own accord.

      Just to make things even more complicated, too - a lot of jurisdictions require that the entrapper is an officer of the law. So if the cops tell a snitch to encourage it (for example), you still don't have a claim of entrapment.

      The Uber drivers are already Uber drivers, otherwise they wouldn't have been despatched to the waiting copper, so there's no entrapment claim.

      > My state requires professional licenses for florists, hairdressers and barbers, interior decorators, handymen, and limousine services.

      I can see the logic in the limo service (as it's effectively much the same as that being used for Uber Taxi's). Interior decorators and handymen maybe (they come into the house, so perhaps it's an attempt to protect the old and vulnerable?), but the others feel very, very heavy handed.

      > It seems a bit heavy-handed to me to jump straight to arresting the Uber drivers for the equivalent of a misdemeanor traffic citation.

      I'm guessing in your state, one of the following is probably true:

      a) They just issue Uber drivers a citation as they would a limo driver

      b) An unlicensed limo driver would in fact be subjected to the same as a Uber driver

      Jurisdictions vary and take different views of different infractions. I'm not sure it's necessarily heavy-handed, given that when you get in a Uber (or any other transport) you're trusting your life to someone else (someone who may not have the correct insurance to cover your ongoing medical costs, at that).

      The likelihood of it actually happening are small, but the stakes are pretty high, so I'm not overly surprised some areas want to come down on it heavily. If anything, I'd say your state was pretty lenient (aside from the odd licensing requirements... why would a florist need a state license???)

      1. billse10

        Re: State licensing

        "aside from the odd licensing requirements... why would a florist need a state license???"

        assaulting hayfever sufferers with a deadly weapon ...

        (it does seem just a bit silly, doesn't it)

        1. cortland

          Re: State licensing

          Yes, I had to:

          Only Hugh can prevent florist friars...

          https://forum.wordreference.com/threads/hugh-and-only-hugh-can-prevent-florist-friars.2478144/#post-12474321

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: State licensing

      is it entrapment if an officer buys unauthorised flowers? :)

    3. GrumpyKiwi

      Re: State licensing

      Those say that your state is full of regulatory retards. Why do Interior Decorators need a professional license? Is picking the wrong fabric for cushions a threat to human life and limb? Will a clashing set of curtains kill someone?

      Why Florists for that matter.

      I'll bet the only answer is that sitting the exams feeds money to the state and keeps competition out.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: State licensing

        Interior decorators can mess with other people's houses. It's about more than just the furniture; they can be working on the walls, too, and other parts of the house structure. They're essentially construction workers. They'll need to know about such things as load-bearing walls and the strength of various materials to make sure they don't wreck the houses they're hired to spruce up.

        Florists? It would help they're not trafficking illegal plants that are (a) endangered or (b) potentially harmful.

  25. Gareth Douglas

    It stands to reason that you need to be tough, rough around the edges and probably goal-driven / task oriented to drive a taxi - as well as having a neck like a jockey's b0ll0x when dealing with whatever sits behind you.

    Seems logical that the replacement of this industry's modus operandi should be conducted by those of a highly matched skill set.

  26. cortland

    But this is MARVELOUS!

    We could use this application to avoid all SORTS of people one wouldn't want to meet; surely that can't be illegal.

    Um,er, CAN it? I don't want to EVER sit next to the Garlic Lady again; once in 1953 was enough.

  27. VulcanV5
    Paris Hilton

    Uber allies

    Seems a bit harsh to criticise a benevolent company which here in the UK employs so many of our residents, pays a vast amount of corporate tax to the national purse, and forks out so much in the way of Employers' National Insurance contributions to help fund this country's welfare and healthcare systems.

    I don't have the actual figures to hand but I'm sure they're out there. Somewhere.

  28. nilfs2
    Holmes

    Monopolies are bad

    If people prefer Uber over traditional taxi services it's because they are giving a better service, there's nothing blocking traditional taxi services from leaving behind the stone age and updating their obsolete business model, giving their customers a service similar or better than Uber.

    There is no need to offer a better service on a monopoly, after all no matter how bad the service is, it is the only offer in the market.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Monopolies are bad

      "There is no need to offer a better service on a monopoly, after all no matter how bad the service is, it is the only offer in the market."

      But the trouble with a Hobson's Choice is that you can sometimes miss the mark, irk your customers, and cause them to walk away. Or worse, inspire someone to form a competing firm.

    2. Kiwi

      Re: Monopolies are bad

      If people prefer Uber over traditional taxi services it's because they are giving a better service, there's nothing blocking traditional taxi services from leaving behind the stone age and updating their obsolete business model, giving their customers a service similar or better than Uber.

      Well. Of course, if Uber were to do things "by the book" and pay any compulsory insurances (private car drivers using private car insurance for business" that taxi companies have to pay, if they were to pay proper wages (apparently they don't), pay to properly vet their drivers, pay to properly train their drivers.. Well, maybe then Uber wouldn't be doing quite so well because it takes a lot of time and money to become a properly vetted, trained, licensed and insured taxi driver.

      Have a look at NZ laws for driving a passenger service vehicle

      Follow the "Read more about when a passenger endorsement is required" link to see the following text :

      "If you drive any other type of passenger service vehicle, and you receive money or some sort of reward for driving the vehicle, then you also need a passenger endorsement." (emphasis mine)

      There are requirements for maximum hours you can work (without looking I assume that's the same as HT driving in NZ, where work is any type of work even if you only drive the truck for half an hour a month), displaying an ID card, standards of conduct, and mandatory security cameras and 24x7x365 monitored emergency communication system

      Pretty bloody expensive to set up a car as a private taxi under NZ law. Wonder how Uber competes on price.. oh, they try to come up with ways they're not required to have these things. But the law is pretty clear on that, that whole "receive money or some sort of reward for driving the vehicle" bit..

      Do you think Uber could compete if they actually followed the legal requirements?

      1. nilfs2
        Headmaster

        Re: Monopolies are bad

        And after all that training and money spend, the service still sucks! I've never had a bad experience with Uber, in the other hand, I have had my fair share of bad experiences with traditional taxi drivers with no one to complain at, at least with Uber I have a phone number and an email to file a complain as well as a way to rate the driver behavior.

  29. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    To all those who say you get licensed drivers so they dont rape people, are you crazy? They aint exactly scholars, lets face it... and heres a recent case where one got off, i guess cuz he had a license and a criminal record check? gimme a break.

    Judge clears Muslim taxi driver of rape

    In 2015, Bassam Al-Rawi, a Muslim taxi driver in Halifax, was pulled over by police. Inside his cab was a 26-year-old woman with her clothes off from her chest down, unconscious. Al-Rawi’s pants were down. He was raping her.

    But Judge Gregory Lenehan just acquitted him, saying:

    “The Crown failed to produce any evidence of lack of consent at any time.”

    Now you know why so many choose to be taxi drivers.

    1. Kiwi

      To all those who say you get licensed drivers so they dont rape people, are you crazy?

      A challenge I know you won't be able to meet.. Point out one post here that has said that. What has been said is it reduces the risk, unlike Uber which "hires" convicted sex offenders, murderers and so on.

      They aint exactly scholars, lets face it...

      Oh? And your source for that piece of bullshit is?

      I've known taxi drivers who are qualified neuro surgeons. Only problem is, they qualified in another country and when they moved to NZ their qualifications couldn't be recognised. To work as a neuro surgeon they had to go through the entire medical training again. Many people from other fields had this problem. I understand NZ now has improved recognition of overseas qualifications, but for a long time it was pretty dire. Qualifications would only be recognised if they came from NZ institutions. Didn't matter if you qualified from Harvard with the highest scores/marks/whatever on record, in NZ you were unqualified and untrained. I doubt we were the only country with this issue.

      Taxi drivers have to pass quite extensive testing for local area knowledge, how well they relate to customers, far better than average knowledge of road laws (not just enough to pass a test), have to have been driving for a couple of years, have to possess a certain amount of medical knowledge.

      So, do you have a cite, or is your dribble just unfounded bullshit?

      and heres a recent case where one got off, i guess cuz he had a license and a criminal record check?

      That's quite a stretch you're pulling there. Where is it even hinted that he got off because he was a taxi driver? Sounds more like he got off because the cops couldn't prove he was raping the woman involved (did she testify? Did she lay a complaint with the cops?)

      gimme a break.

      Why? You don't appear to deserve one.

      In 2015, Bassam Al-Rawi, a Muslim taxi driver in Halifax, was pulled over by police. Inside his cab was a 26-year-old woman with her clothes off from her chest down, unconscious. Al-Rawi’s pants were down. He was raping her.

      Interesting you didn't provide a link. Is that because you're embarrassed to be quoting "therebel.media"?

      But as you quote in your own message....

      But Judge Gregory Lenehan just acquitted him, saying:

      “The Crown failed to produce any evidence of lack of consent at any time.”

      So.. How does that fit your argument again?

      Maybe you should look a little further afield....

      Those most eager to vilify Mr. Al-Rawi seem to be the least eager to gather accurate information.

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