Home / News & Analysis / FBI Investigates Uber’s Use of ‘Hell’ Spying Software

FBI Investigates Uber’s Use of ‘Hell’ Spying Software

Uber is having a rough time of it lately in the news and with law enforcement, but it seems it only has itself to blame. Earlier this year the company had to promise to stop "greyballing" law enforcement in cities where the ride-hailing service was banned. Now the FBI has the company in its sights because of spying software.

Not content with simply competing with rivals, Uber is under suspicion for spying on them to gain an advantage. According to Reuters, the FBI believes a program referred to as "Hell" internally was used to spy on Lyft Inc. drivers using fake accounts.

The software would create fake Lyft customer accounts and then use them to track Lyft drivers and the prices they were charging. It would also be able to confirm the identity of the Lyft driver and then check if they also worked for Uber. If they did, it's possible they were lured away from continuing to work for Lyft through the use of cash incentives.

Whether the FBI have a case against Uber depends on the answer to one question: did the Hell software use unauthorized access to a computer in order to function? That's a question the FBI's New York office and Manhattan US attorney's office are jointly trying to answer.


This fresh controversy comes just a couple of weeks after Uber decided to try and restore confidence and improve privacy by axing its controversial post-ride tracking feature. It allowed Uber to track riders after they had ended their trip. But it is only being dropped on iPhone. Android users will continue to be tracked until "some point in the future."

Meanwhile, Lyft announced today that it is going to offer self-driving car rides in the San Francisco Bay Area. A trained driver will still be present in these cars just in case something goes wrong, but the vehicle will be controlled via software provided by Mountain View company Drive.ai.

Read more

Check Also

Facebook News Feed now downranks sites with stolen content

Facebook is demoting trashy news publishers and other websites that illicitly scrape and republish content from other sources with little or no modification. Today it exclusively told TechCrunch that it will show links less prominently in the News Feed if they have a combination of this new signal about content authenticity along with either clickbait headlines orlanding pages overflowing with low-quality ads. The move comes after Facebook’s surveys and in-person interviews with discovered that users hate scraped content. If illgotten intellectual property gets less News Feed distribution, it will receive less referral traffic, earn less ad revenue, and the there’ll be less incentive for crooks to steal articles, photos, and videos in the first place. That could create an umbrella effect that improves content authenticity across the web. And just in case the scraped profile data stolen from 29 million users in Facebook’s recent massive security breach ended up published online, Facebook would already have a policy in place to make links to it effectively disappear from the feed. Here’s an example of the type of site that might be demoted by Facebook’s latest News Feed change. “Latet Nigerian News” scraped one of my recent TechCrunch articles, and surrounded it by tons of ads. An ad-filled site that scraped my recent TechCrunch article. This site might be hit by a News Feed demotion “Starting today, we’re rolling out an update so people see fewer posts that ink out to low quality sites that predominantly copy and republish content from other sites without providing unique value. We are adjusting our Publish Guidelines accordingly” Facebook wrote in an addendum to its May 2017 post about demoting sites stuffed with crappy ads. Facebook tells me the new publisher guidelines will warn news outlets to add original content or value to reposted content or invoke the social network’s wrath. Personally, I think the importance of transparency around these topics warrants a new blog post from Facebook as well as an update to the original post linking forward to it. So how does Facebook determine if content is stolen? It’s systems compare the main text content of a page with all other text content to find potential matches. The degree of matching is used to predict that a site stole its content. It then uses a combined classifier merging this prediction with how clickbaity a site’s headlines are plus the quality and quantity of ads on the site.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Disclaimer: Trading in bitcoins or other digital currencies carries a high level of risk and can result in the total loss of the invested capital. theonlinetech.org does not provide investment advice, but only reflects its own opinion. Please ensure that if you trade or invest in bitcoins or other digital currencies (for example, investing in cloud mining services) you fully understand the risks involved! Please also note that some external links are affiliate links.