A trove of Uber documents leaked to the media opens a window into the internal workings of the ridesharing giant’s sometimes brutal and sleazy approach towards muscling its way into becoming a worldwide juggernaut. Here is what we know about the so-called Uber Files.
Gig giant exposed The Uber Files were obtained by British newspaper The Guardian and shared with other outlets to prepare a series of reports based on the leak. Its principal partner is the US-based International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ). The files include more than 124,000 documents, including 83,000 emails and text messages from 2013 to 2017. It was a time of rapid global expansion for the US giant, which was run at the time by co-founder Travis Kalanick. He resigned as CEO in 2017 amid concerns from investors over Uber’s corporate culture.
Uber pioneered a gig-economy business model, and many nations were not prepared for it, regulatorily speaking. As the company lured drivers with various incentives and cut costs by minimizing taxes, traditional taxi drivers protested what they saw as unfair competition.
‘Pirates’ of ridesharing Uber executives were quite aware of their dubious legal status and joked about their effort to brush off regulations, emails showed. “We have officially become pirates,” one person wrote in a discussion of company tactics to “avoid enforcement.” The cavalier approach based on the notion that it’s better to seek forgiveness than permission produced what the company referred to as a “pyramid of sh*t,” including lawsuits from drivers, administrative procedures, investigations by regulators and direct litigation.
‘Kill switch’ One way to apparently hinder investigations was to cut access to company servers in the US from regional offices, referred to as “kill switch” in Uber communications. It was engaged during police raids in countries like France, the Netherlands, Belgium, India, Hungary and Romania.