The ride-sharing company Uber confirmed that it had technology to shield company data when law enforcement raided its offices outside the U.S. Uber spokeswoman Melanie Ensign said this tool - no longer in use - could lock computers and smartphones and change passwords remotely from the company's headquarters in San Francisco.
Bloomberg reported Thursday that Uber used the tool, known as Ripley, from spring 2015 until late 2016 in several cities, including Paris, Hong Kong, Brussels, Amsterdam and Montreal. Bloomberg said some Uber employees felt the system hindered legitimate investigations, while some people believed its use was justified when police didn't come with warrants or specific-enough data requests.
The use of this tool raises questions for Uber because the company has in the past used a phony version of its app to thwart authorities. The "Greyball" software identified regulators who were trying to hail a ride in an attempt to collect evidence of local law-breaking. Those rides would be canceled or never arrive. It has also been reported that the Justice Department was investigating whether Uber illegally used software to track drivers of its rival Lyft.