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Uber’s new CEO has been trying to clean-up the mess cofounder Travis Kalanick left behind. One sweeping change was a total crackdown on secure messaging apps when it comes to business matters.
CEO Dara Khosrowshahi tweeted Wednesday that he forbid employees from using apps like Wickr and Telegram shortly after he joined the company. He shared that nugget of information while Uber’s top lawyer is currently testifying on allegedly receiving stolen proprietary information from Google’s Waymo.
True that Wickr, Telegram were used often at Uber when I came in. As of Sept 27th I directed my teams NOT to use such Apps when discussing Uber-related business.
— dara khosrowshahi (@dkhos) November 29, 2017
Wickr, like Snapchat, allows ephemeral messaging so that the messages disappear and are not stored on the device. It seems obvious that employees should not discuss “Uber-related business” in secure channels where Uber management and judges (in case they were to be sued) could not access that information.
Of course, that’s not how Kalanick is known to operate, and it’s clearly not how he helped build Uber into a tech giant.
We’ve already seen what can happen when people at Uber don’t use encrypted and ephemeral messaging. Just check out the texts between Kalanick and the former head of self-driving technology Anthony Levandowski.
But Kalanick’s personal texts aside, Uber’s lawyers allegedly trained employees how to use secure and ephemeral messaging apps while Kalanick was in charge. These details arose from a previously undisclosed 37-page document called “Jacobs Letter” that includes allegations of Uber’s security practices. The letter, shared during the going trial between Uber and Waymo, was written by Richard Jacobs, Uber’s former manager of global intelligence who had resigned in April.
The letter, sent to Uber by Jacobs’ attorney, alleged that the use of secure apps like Wickr was intended to “obstruct” any potentially litigation, according to Forbes, and noted in testimony on Tuesday that Uber employees even traveled to Pittsburgh, where Uber operates its self-driving division, to teach employees about using the apps.
“I did not believe it was patently legal,” Jacobs said of his company’s actions, such as accessing information on drivers overseas and metrics about competitors, according to Forbes. “I had questions about the ethics of it.”
Another employee Ed Russo denied that claim on Tuesday and said the instructions were focused more on security matters like creating a strong password.
Uber’s team is fighting back against Jacobs’ letter when it comes to the claims on secure messaging relating to Waymo’s lawsuit. An Uber spokesperson said to Forbes after Tuesday’s hearing that Jacobs testified he was not aware of Uber stealing any trade secrets from Waymo.