SAN FRANCISCO — Uber secretly tracked iPhones — even after its app had been deleted — and tried to hide their activity from Apple, according to the New York Times.
At the time, Uber was reportedly trying to stop its own drivers from defrauding the company.
Some were creating fake accounts and using them to request rides in order to cash in on an incentive program meant to encourage them to take more rides.
When Uber caught on, it had its engineers assign a “persistent identity” to iPhones with a small piece of code, the Times reported.
The practice is called fingerprinting. That way, Uber could identify an iPhone even after the device had been wiped. But that violates Apple’s privacy policies.
To hide the activity, Uber CEO Travis Kalanick reportedly had his engineers geofence Apple’s headquarters and obscured the app’s code in that area, so Apple engineers couldn’t see Uber’s fingerprinting, the Times reported.
“This is like a holy trinity of privacy disaster: 1) secret tracking that 2) persists after users delete app 3) in knowing violation of rules,” Dustin Volz with Reuters said on Twitter Sunday.
Tim Cook, the CEO of Apple, reportedly found out about the policy violations in 2015 and called a meeting with Kalanick.
The report of Uber’s policy violations comes one month after the company announced it would end the use of a controversial tool called Greyball the company has used to identify and evade regulators in markets in which the car-sharing service is prohibited.
Greyball relied on at least a dozen factors, including location information and credit card data, to determine if a user hailing a car was a regulator or law enforcement official.
Earlier in March, Kalanick issued a public apology after a recording of him engaging in a heated argument with an Uber driver was made public.
At the time, the company was already dealing with serious backlash from its response to President Donald Trump’s first travel ban and allegations of systemic sexism at the company.
The #DeleteUber campaign went viral and Uber sent an email to customers saying the company was “deeply hurting.”
According to the Times, Uber operates in more than 70 countries and is valued at nearly $70 billion.