US-based car-hailing giant Uber has been in the headlines since its conception, sometimes for good reasons and sometimes for bad reasons, but lately it has been the latter. Recently, an article published in The New York Times has alleged that Apple CEO Tim Cook had once threatened to delete Uber’s iOS app from the App Store, when he found out that the company had successfully found a way to identify individual iPhones, even once the Uber app was deleted from the phones.
The article describes Uber CEO Travis Kalanick as an aggressive leader who is willing to occasionally bend even break the rules to get his way, even if it means rubbing one of the world’s largest tech firms wrongly. Though the attitude seemed to have worked in the beginning with Uber climbing the success ladder quite quickly but off late the CEO has been running into a couple of sticky situations one after another. Whether it was Kalanick getting caught on a dashcam arguing with his own Uber driver over the company’s treatment of drivers, prompting a mea culpa from him or the #DeleteUber campaign trending worldwide for its CEO being part of part of the Trump advisory council, Uber and its CEO have been having a tough time lately and the latest piece from The New York Times is only going to add to their troubles.
The article gives a detailed account of how Uber faced problems with account fraud while it was trying to expand its shop in China, and it somehow invented a way through which they could secretly identify an individual iPhone, even after the Uber app had been deleted from the phone, or even if the phone had been factory reset.
This practice of finding individuals phones even when they have deleted the app is called fingerprinting, and is strictly prohibited by Apple. In order to ensure that Apple doesn’t get a whiff of its activities, Uber decided to geofence Apple’s headquarters in Cupertino, changing its code so that its activities would remain hidden from the Apple Employees. Unfortunately, despite Uber’s several efforts, Apple being the technology giant it is ending up unearthing the malpractice, which led to the 2015 meeting of the two CEOs wherein Cook sternly told Kalanick to end the practice immediately or stand the risk of getting the Uber app removed from the App store permanently. The article mentions a source according to whom the Uber CEO was particularly shaken by Cook’s scolding, and decided to put a an immediate end to the practice.
In addition to the aforementioned controversies, Uber has been recently called out for making use of secret programs to evade government regulators and to track rival drivers and their own customers without permission. Further, it is also being being sued for allegedly stealing proprietary information regarding self-driving cars from Alphabet’s Waymo (Read Here). It seems, Uber’s PR nightmare isn’t going to end anytime soon.