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Lawsuit: Uber Responds to Police Raids by Shutting Down, Encrypting Computers

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By Christopher Coble, Esq. on December 21, 2016 5:59 AM

A damning lawsuit claims Uber had an Incident Response team with a very specific plan in place should law enforcement would raid its offices: shut down all the computers and encrypt them remotely. A former employee says he was charged with protecting the ride-sharing company's data from the prying eyes of the police:

"I would be called when governmental agencies raided Uber's offices due to concerns regarding noncompliance with governmental regulations," his lawsuit claims. "In those instances, Uber would lock down the office and immediately cut all connectivity so that law enforcement could not access Uber's information."

It's the Sound of the Police

Ward Spangenberg may just be a disgruntled former employee, but he at least appears to have a wealth of information on the inner workings of Uber data protection strategies. Spangenberg was Uber's in-house forensic investigator, and described his response to a 2015 raid on Uber's Montreal offices. Spangenberg claims he immediately encrypted the company's laptops remotely, blocking law enforcement access, and that this was standard operating procedure.

When Business Insider asked Uber to comment, the company responded:

"It's no secret that Uber has trip coordinates and other personally identifiable information about riders and drivers, and it's our obligation to protect that. We cooperate with authorities when they come to us with subpoenas."

Station Identification

While Uber was hiding information from the authorities, its employees were allegedly sharing rider data with each other. Another bombshell in Spangenberg's declaration alleges that employees were about to use the company's tracking system to monitor the whereabouts of "high profile politicians, celebrities, and even personal acquaintances," even helping ex-boyfriends stalk their ex-girlfriends. "When I was at the company," Spangenberg said, "you could stalk an ex or look up anyone's ride with the flimsiest of justifications. It didn't require anyone's approval."

Spangenberg is suing Uber for age discrimination, whistleblower retaliation, and defamation, and believes he was fired for trying to address the company's security lapses.

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