Uber sued by ex-Lyft driver tormented by app maker's 'Hell' spyware

Law-flouting ride service challenged for alleged privacy, wiretap, and business law violations

A former Lyft driver is suing Uber alleging the ride-summoning biz spied on his movements and violated privacy, competition, and communications laws.

Plaintiff Michael Gonzales, who drove for Lyft from 2012 through November 2014, filed suit in San Francisco, California, on Monday, claiming Uber developed and deployed software known as "Hell" to spoof Lyft customers and spy on Lyft employees between 2014 and 2016.

"Using Hell, Uber employees, contractors, and/or agents were able to access the location of up to eight Lyft drivers at one time and obtain their unique Lyft ID," the complaint states. "Each Lyft ID is unique, akin to a social security number, which allowed Uber to track Lyft drivers' locations over time."

Unlike Lyft, Uber changes the tokens it uses in its app to identify drivers, to prevent such tracking.

Uber, as a former employee stated in a court declaration last year, has also employed software referred to internally as "Heaven View" (formerly "God View") to track the locations of "high-profile politicians, celebrities and even personal acquaintances of Uber employees, including ex-boyfriends/girlfriends, and ex-spouses."

Gonzales's complaint, filed in San Francisco's US District Court, alleges that Uber used Lyft driver data to identify which drivers utilized both Uber and Lyft, in order to encourage those drivers to focus on Uber, thereby making Lyft customers wait longer for rides and reducing Lyft's earnings.

As of a year ago, about 315,000 people had driven for Lyft and about 60 per cent of those had also driven for Uber, according to the lawsuit, which aspires to be certified as a class action.

Of the remainder, about 126,000 drivers worked exclusively for Lyft, representing the potential national class of plaintiffs. The complaint estimates that there are thousands of individuals in California who would qualify as a state class, though it notes that many of these individuals "may not be aware that they have been wronged" because of the "secret nature of the Hell spyware."

The lawsuit comes almost two weeks after The Information reported on the existence of the Hell software.

More recently, the publication found Uber has a serious driver retention problem – only 3 per cent of those who sign up for an Uber driver account continue to drive for the company a year later.

Uber did not immediately respond to a request to confirm that figure or to a separate request to comment on this latest in a long list of lawsuits leveled against the VC-fueled firm.

Lyft did not respond immediately to a request for comment and for information about how it presently tracks its drivers.

The lawsuit seeks damages under the Electronic Communications Privacy Act and the California Invasion of Privacy Act, restitution, court costs, and an injunction that requires Uber to avoid further violations. ®

Similar topics

Other stories you might like

  • Despite global uncertainty, $500m hit doesn't rattle Nvidia execs
    CEO acknowledges impact of war, pandemic but says fundamentals ‘are really good’

    Nvidia is expecting a $500 million hit to its global datacenter and consumer business in the second quarter due to COVID lockdowns in China and Russia's invasion of Ukraine. Despite those and other macroeconomic concerns, executives are still optimistic about future prospects.

    "The full impact and duration of the war in Ukraine and COVID lockdowns in China is difficult to predict. However, the impact of our technology and our market opportunities remain unchanged," said Jensen Huang, Nvidia's CEO and co-founder, during the company's first-quarter earnings call.

    Those two statements might sound a little contradictory, including to some investors, particularly following the stock selloff yesterday after concerns over Russia and China prompted Nvidia to issue lower-than-expected guidance for second-quarter revenue.

    Continue reading
  • Another AI supercomputer from HPE: Champollion lands in France
    That's the second in a week following similar system in Munich also aimed at researchers

    HPE is lifting the lid on a new AI supercomputer – the second this week – aimed at building and training larger machine learning models to underpin research.

    Based at HPE's Center of Excellence in Grenoble, France, the new supercomputer is to be named Champollion after the French scholar who made advances in deciphering Egyptian hieroglyphs in the 19th century. It was built in partnership with Nvidia using AMD-based Apollo computer nodes fitted with Nvidia's A100 GPUs.

    Champollion brings together HPC and purpose-built AI technologies to train machine learning models at scale and unlock results faster, HPE said. HPE already provides HPC and AI resources from its Grenoble facilities for customers, and the broader research community to access, and said it plans to provide access to Champollion for scientists and engineers globally to accelerate testing of their AI models and research.

    Continue reading
  • Workday nearly doubles losses as waves of deals pushed back
    Figures disappoint analysts as SaaSy HR and finance application vendor navigates economic uncertainty

    HR and finance application vendor Workday's CEO, Aneel Bhusri, confirmed deal wins expected for the three-month period ending April 30 were being pushed back until later in 2022.

    The SaaS company boss was speaking as Workday recorded an operating loss of $72.8 million in its first quarter [PDF] of fiscal '23, nearly double the $38.3 million loss recorded for the same period a year earlier. Workday also saw revenue increase to $1.43 billion in the period, up 22 percent year-on-year.

    However, the company increased its revenue guidance for the full financial year. It said revenues would be between $5.537 billion and $5.557 billion, an increase of 22 percent on earlier estimates.

    Continue reading

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2022