By now it shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone that Uber relies on numerous shady practices, but as part of the ongoing lawsuit between the ride-hailing company and self-driving start-up Waymo over stolen technology, new evidence has been released that shows the lengths Uber has gone to in order to succeed. A 37-page letter written by a former employee has been published, and it includes claims that the company regularly conducted corporate espionage, illicit hacking, unlawful surveillance, and even bribery.
The letter was penned by Richard Jacobs, who served on Uber’s security team, and was originally sent to the company’s management in May of this year. Dubbed the “Jacobs letter,” it’s this evidence that the Department of Justice gave to the judge overseeing the Waymo lawsuit, which in turn accused Uber of failing to disclose the document and delayed the trial until next year. While small parts of the Jacobs letter have previously been read aloud in court, the complete document has been made public in a redacted form.
The letter is made up of numerous detailed accounts of Uber’s illegal practices. The company’s Strategic Services Group (SSG) was responsible for not only hacking competitors in order to steal secrets and get a leg up, but used spies to monitor political figures and wiretapped regulators, bribed foreign officials, and used burner phones self-destructing messages in order to hide records of their activities in the event of a lawsuit.
Jacobs also said that Uber’s former CEO Travis Kalanick knew about many of these practices, in addition to receiving much of the information that was collected as a result.
The Department of Justice has confirmed that it’s continuing its criminal investigation into Uber over the theft of Waymo trade secrets. An Uber spokesperson has released a statement noting “While we haven’t substantiated all the claims in this letter — and, importantly, any related to Waymo — our new leadership has made clear that going forward we will compete honestly and fairly, on the strength of our ideas and technology.”