Taxi service Uber had a team of employees spying on rival companies to steal trade secrets, a former employee testified in US federal court in San Francisco.
According to Uber’s former manager of global intelligence Richard Jacobs, the company hired former CIA agents to help infiltrate computers of rivals. Jacobs said it was done overseas.
Jacobs, who was fired seven months ago after working as the manager of global intelligence since March 2016, did not specify the companies Uber wanted to hack but said drivers were involved.
After Jacobs left Uber, his attorney sent a 37-page letter to the company’s lawyers, expressing concerns about potentially criminal or unethical activities within Uber’s “strategic services group” and “marketplace analytics” teams.
Marketplace analytics “exists expressly for the purpose of acquiring trade secrets, code base, and competitive intelligence,” the letter said.
However, under questioning, Jacobs said the letter’s language was “hyperbolic.”
“I did not believe it was patently illegal. I had questions about the ethics of it. Because of my personal ethics, it felt overly aggressive and invasive,” said Jacobs.
To protect itself against potential trouble, the taxi service used a service Uber called Wickr that automatically erases messages, Jacobs testified.
His testimony came on the eve of jury selection for a civil trial over allegations Uber stole trade secrets from Google’s self-driving car service Waymo.