A former Uber security specialist accused the company of dispatching a team of spies to steal its rivals’ trade secrets and using shady tactics to thwart its competition in the ride-hailing market, according an inflammatory letter unsealed Friday by a federal judge.
Former Uber manager Richard Jacobs, who was fired earlier this year, made the explosive claims in a 37-page letter that sought a big payoff for being forced out of the company. The letter, written by a lawyer on Jacobs’ behalf, has already reshaped a high-profile trial pitting Uber against Waymo, a Google spin-off that accuses its rival of stealing its self-driving car technology.
Here are some of the allegations Richard Jacobs, the former Uber security analyst, made against Uber in his letter:
• Uber used CIA-trained independent contractors to collect foreign intelligence, Jacobs alleges. He says they conducted “foreign espionage against a sovereign nation” and collected metadata from the mobile phones of “opposition figures, politicians, and government regulators.” Uber also recruited undercover agents and infiltrated closed social media groups for taxi drivers and drivers working for competing companies.
• Jacobs writes that his former company bribed foreign government officials. Jacobs claims Uber was targeting officials and gathering information that could ease enforcement activities or help Uber unblock markets.
• Uber “implemented a sophisticated strategy to destroy, conceal, cover up, and falsify records or documents,” says the letter. The company allegedly used a combination of disappearing messaging apps, untraceable computers, and excessive use of attorney-client privilege to impede government investigations and avoid discovery obligations, says the letter.
“While we haven’t substantiated all the claims in the letter — importantly, any related to Waymo — our new leadership has made it clear that going forward we will compete honestly and fairly, on the strength of our ideas and technology,” Uber said in a statement on Friday.