Uber has admitted remotely locking equipment in foreign offices to protect information on its computers in the case of raids.
The drive-hailing app has been the subject of numerous investigations in many of the cities in which it operates.
According to a report by Bloomberg, the company has developed a security system to protect its computers when investigators raid its offices.
Company spokeswoman Melanie Ensign confirmed that the tool existed, but said it was no longer in use. The company says it cooperates “with all valid searches and requests for data.”
The system has reportedly been called Ripley, after the character played by Sigourney Weaver in the Alien film franchise who declares the best way to defeat the aliens: “Nuke the entire site from orbit. It’s the only way to be sure.”
Bloomberg said the system had been used at least two dozen times in cities including Paris, Hong Kong, Brussels, Amsterdam and Montreal.
Managers at Uber offices are reportedly trained to use it. They page a number which alerts specially trained staff at Uber’s headquarters when offices are faced with a raid.
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The specially trained staff then remotely log off every computer in that office, Bloomberg reported, “making it practically impossible for the authorities to retrieve the company records they’d obtained a warrant to collect.”
Separately, Uber is under investigation for its “greyball” software, which was reportedly used to thwart government regulators.
Greyball (a play on blackball) identified regulators when they were using the app in an attempt to investigate the company. Their rides would be cancelled or would never arrive.
A spokesperson for Uber said: “Like every company with offices around the world, we have security procedures in place to protect corporate and customer data.
“For instance, if an employee loses their laptop, we have the ability to remotely log them out of Uber’s systems to prevent someone else from accessing private user data through that laptop.
“When it comes to government investigations, it’s our policy to cooperate with all valid searches and requests for data.”