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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.

Related

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.

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