Uber is once again under scrutiny after a report revealed the company violated Apple's app store guidelines. This new allegation further proves how many rules Uber's CEO, Travis Kalanick, is willing to break and test to ensure Uber survives the ridesharing wars.
The report, written for The New York Times by Mike Issac, purports that Uber used a specific kind of code called "fingerprinting." The code, which was used sometime in 2014 to 2015, let Uber identify iPhones that had their systems wiped and deleted the Uber app. Apple thought it violated the app store's privacy guidelines, which led to a meeting between Apple's CEO Tim Cook and Kalanick in 2015. Cook confronted Kalanick about the violations and told him he would pull Uber's app from the app store if the company didn't stop. Kalanick knew removing the app from the app store would be terrible for the business, so it stopped fingerprinting.
Before the meeting however, Uber went to great lengths to conceal the fingerprinting code from Apple. Uber engineers used "geofencing" to make the Uber app look different to Apple engineers, but Apple engineers eventually noticed and brought the issue up to Cook.
In a statement to CNET, Uber contends that it used fingerprinting for "fraud detection." According to The New York Times, drivers in China would buy stolen iPhones, sign up for new accounts, and then request rides from them and accept it as drivers to earn more money. "We absolutely do not track individual users or their location if they've deleted the app," said the Uber statement. "As the New York Times story notes towards the very end, this is a typical way to prevent fraudsters from loading Uber onto a stolen phone, putting in a stolen credit card, taking an expensive ride and then wiping the phone - over and over again. Similar techniques are also used for detecting and blocking suspicious logins to protect our users' accounts. Being able to recognize known bad actors when they try to get back onto our network is an important security measure for both Uber and our users."
This is another example of how Kalanick and Uber continuously violate privacy rules and local laws - and shows that the company desperately needs a leadership change. These privacy violations have been just one of the reasons a number of customers have deleted Uber.