Uber's Ripley Program and Protocol

The system was named for the heroine of the

The system was named for the heroine of the"Alien movie franchise. Eric Risberg AP

In May 2015, ten investigators for the Quebec tax authority burst into Uber's office in Montreal, believing that Uber had violated tax laws and arrived with a warrant to collect evidence.

Once the call is received, the personnel in San Francisco remotely log off every computer in a given office, which Bloomberg says was the case in the Montreal incident. The name itself was inspired by the words of Sigourney Weaver's Ellen Ripley in Aliens, specifically the line "nuke the entire site from orbit".

From spring 2015 until late 2016, Uber routinely used Ripley to thwart police raids in foreign countries, say three people with knowledge of the system.

The use of this tool raises questions for Uber simply because there is now a growing list of eyebrow-raising technological tactics the company has employed during its meteoric rise from Bay Area phenomenon to global powerhouse over the past nine years. The investigators left empty handed.

Uber developed a secret system called Ripley that would lock down staff computers in the event of a police raid, preventing officials from accessing company data.

Uber has been accused of using several pieces of software to evade authories and collect data on rivals.

Uber's use of Greyball was recorded in late 2014, when an enforcement inspector in Portland, Oregon, tried to hail an Uber auto downtown in a sting operation against the company.b Uber quickly identified them as city officials, based on data collected from the app and in other ways.

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Bloomberg said that Ripley stands out partly because it was used regularly-at least two dozen times because some employees involved say they felt the program slowed investigations that were legally sound in the local offices' jurisdictions. The three people with knowledge of the tool believe it was justified, however, since they claim authorities outside the United States didn't always come with warrants and often relied on rather broad orders.

"Like every company with offices around the world, we have security procedures in place to protect corporate and customer data", Ensign said in a statement.

Ensign said the company shut down Ripley in 2016 because it didn't work well.

Later versions of the system gave Uber the ability to offer selective access to authorities, presumably to stop anyone trying to snoop around places not covered by warrants and court orders. The company also said its policy is to cooperate with all valid searches and requests for data.

The service was able to show them a fake app populated with "ghost" cars and cancel their rides.

Ripley isn't the only program Uber used to thwart local authorities. She said Uber's guidance to employees bars use of the tool where it isn't legal. The company now uses a tool called ULocker that can remotely lock and encrypt devices.

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