Miscellaneous Technology

Apple Chief Threatened to Pull Uber From App Store

Travis Kalanick LeWeb Day 1 - Dan Taylor/Heisenberg Media

Apple CEO Tim Cook took his Uber counterpart to task during a 2015 meeting for secretly tracking former users of the ride-sharing app, even after they had removed it from their iPhones.

The meeting, which has just come to light, was revealed in a special report by the New York Times.

Cook, according to the report, gave Uber CEO Travis Kalanick a tongue lashing for the sneaky practice that was able to identify individual iPhones and threatened to remove Uber’s iPhone app removed from the App Store unless changes were made.

Tim Cook
Tim Cook

Sources told the Times that Kalanick had staff conceal the fingerprinting code from Apple, but the iPhone maker’s employees eventually discovered what Uber was doing, which led to the meeting.

Apple declined to comment on the matter.

An Uber spokesperson told Tech Crunch its fingerprinting technology was altered two years ago so it would comply with Apple’s rules.

“We absolutely do not track individual users or their location if they’ve deleted the app,” the spokesperson told Tech Crunch. “…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.”

The fact that Uber tried to pull a fast one with Apple back in 2015 should come as no surprise, however.

The company recently admitted to using a special technology known as Greyballing to detect and evade local regulators scrutinizing the ride-sharing service.

That news also came courtesy of the New York Times, which outed Uber’s use of the technology to thwart regulators and law enforcement hoping to catch the firm’s drivers operating in areas where the service has been restricted. The report, which cited four former and current Uber employees, indicated Greyball was being used in a number of U.S. cities as well as in other countries.

Uber has been under fire on a number of issues for several months, from sexism allegations, to disgruntled drivers, to the lawsuit filed against it by Google to the $20-million fine it was slapped with by the FTC.

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