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5 Takeaways from 'The Guardian's' Exposé on Uber's Leaked Documents

From explicit internal communication to "weaponizing" drivers, leaked Uber documents reveal the company's unorthodox and questionable practices.


The Guardian has published an exposé based on a leak of 124,000 internal documents that outlined the company's practices amid its aggressive global expansion.

Dubbed the "Uber Files," the documents span a five-year period, from 2013 to 2017, ending the same year former CEO and co-founder Travis Kalanick stepped down.

The leaked materials consist of emails and texts from WhatsApp and iMessage, which shine a light on the questionable practices that fueled the company's growth, including Kalanick's tactic of "weaponizing" drivers, one former executive told The Guardian.

Here are the five most interesting findings:

  • In 2016, Kalanick urged French employees to prompt local Uber drivers to counter-protest during the riots and taxi strike taking place in Paris at the time. When met with concern from other executives, Kalanick stated "I think it's worth it. Violence guarantee[s] success." The initative, which put drivers at risk to potentially dangerous protests, was a strategy of "weaponizing" the drivers to "keep the controversy burning," a former executive told The Guardian.
  • At least one executive was aware of the illicit and questionable practices that took place, stating "we're just f---ing illegal."

Related: Uber Needs to Recreate its Company Culture. Here's What You Can Learn From Its Mistakes.

  • During the company's early expansion, Uber faced obstacles overseas with regulations and backlash from local taxi services, prompting the company to urge governments to rewrite laws to incorporate their technology. Uber garnered the support of government officials, politicians, and other powerful figures through extensive financial stakes, the documents reveal, positioning them as "strategic investors."
  • As the company launched in India, a top Uber executive in Asia pressed managers to drive growth at all costs, urging them to "embrace the chaos, and that "it means you're doing something meaningful."
  • The documents revealed the extent to which the company dodged law enforcement, implementing an elaborate "kill switch" system. In the event of an office raid, Uber executives instructed the IT team to halt access to the company's data systems as a means to stop authorities from garnering evidence. The documents reveal that the "kill switch" tactic was implemented at least 12 times in France, the Netherlands, Belgium, India, Hungary, and Romania.

In response to the leak, a spokesperson for Kalanick told The Guardian that the former CEO "never authorized any actions or programs that would obstruct justice in any country," and that the accusations of his involvement are "completely false."

Related: The Rise and Fall of Uber and Travis Kalanick

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