Uber has a deservedly bad rap when it comes to protecting both its drivers and customers. Despite years of problems, the ride-hailing app is still making life difficult for criminal investigators, according to an incredibly in-depth report from the Verge and nonprofit newsroom the Markup.
The report starts with the terrifying carjacking of Uber driver Brian Blagoue, and the many roadblocks the company he works for threw up while he was searching for information about the rider who had robbed him. He later discovered that the same Uber customer was wanted in connection with the murder of another Uber driver from the previous night. Even after the murder, it would take three weeks for Uber to respond to police requests for information on the person who booked both rides.
Blagoue’s experience is not singular. In fact, of the over 5,000 data requests made by law enforcement in 2021, Uber’s Public Safety Response Team responded to just over half. From the report, which is a result of a partnership between the Verge and the Markup.
Soha Malik worked as a specialist for that team in 2020 and 2021. Her job was to clear a backlog of hundreds of subpoena, search warrant, and court order requests from law enforcement, some of which involved sexual harassment claims and homicides, according to an ongoing wrongful termination lawsuit she filed against Uber in San Francisco Superior Court earlier this year.
In court documents, Malik described a work environment where her managers encouraged her “not to assist ‘any’ law enforcement as it would hinder her ability to reduce the backlog” and “not provide information that was ‘too much trouble’ to obtain.” Instead, she was told to “give out as little information as possible since their job was to ‘protect the client,’” which can refer to either the driver or rider. She also said she was criticized when she provided law enforcement “too much user information.”
A delay in providing such information means dangerous people are left roaming the streets, or even slip through police’s fingers entirely, when wanted for violent and horrific crimes. When crimes are committed against drivers, the company requires contractors to navigate a confusing reporting app, and that’s if their phone wasn’t also stolen during the crime. Blagoue, for instance couldn’t get much information on the person who carjacked him due to privacy concerns…for the suspect.
Read the entire report from the two journalistic outlets here. It’ll make you think twice about calling up an Uber any time soon.