Uber uses 'panic button' to shield files during police raids

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The use of this tool raises questions for Uber because the company has in the past used a phony version of its app to thwart authorities.

Ride-sharing company Uber has been accused of using a computer system to intentionally dodge criminal investigations in foreign countries, according to Bloomberg. Ripley allowed engineers based at the ride-hailing company's San Francisco headquarters to quickly deny remote access to driver and customer data.

Uber used Ripley during a raid in Montreal in May 2015, according to Bloomberg.

Ripley, the name of the software, took reportedly took its name form Sigourney Weaver's character in the 1979 sci-fi movie "Alien". The program was reportedly used at least two dozen times in cities such as Quebec, Hong Kong, Amsterdam, Brussels, and Paris during police raids of Uber offices. The "Greyball" software identified regulators who were trying to hail a ride in an attempt to collect evidence of local law-breaking. Their rides would be cancelled or would never arrive.

Uber has the right to protect its trade secrets and ensure that secret company information isn't handed over to just anyone.

The company's hard-charging co-founder and CEO, Travis Kalanick, resigned in June after former engineer Susan Fowler's early-2017 blog post revealed a corporate culture that was toxic to women. Dara Khosrowshahi has, at times, seemed less like management than mopping exercise.

In the report, people with knowledge of Uber's operations say that the system, called Ripley, was a closely guarded secret.

New Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi has been forced to play damage control as the company tries to fix a reputation damaged by countless scandals and lawsuits. While such plot devices are common in Hollywood, a bombshell report from Bloomberg relays that Uber employed a similar strategy in an effort to thwart law enforcement officials from gathering any evidence regarding the ridesharing company's own illicit activity.

Think of it as a panic button and Uber is calling it "Ripley". Ensign could not immediately say whether Uber has used that tool to protect data from law enforcement as well.

In December 2016, an ex-Uber security employee, Ward Spangenberg, made a sworn statement saying he was part of an "incident response team" that helped remotely erase data when Revenu Québec raided the company's Montreal offices in 2015.

'When it comes to government investigations, it's our policy to cooperate with all valid searches and requests for data.