Apple Considered Banning Uber

John Lister's picture

Uber has denied it continued tracking users even after the app was removed from phones. Apple boss Tim Cook reportedly threatened to ban the app from iPhones if it used such practices.

The New York Times made the claim in a lengthy profile of Uber boss Travis Kalanick, the man behind the company which brings passengers and drivers together via a smartphone app, without the need to hail a cab in the street or phone to book one.

According to the report, Cook called Kalanick in for a meeting after discovering Uber had altered its code to hide the fact that it was "secretly identifying and tagging" phones even after users had deleted the app. In fact Uber was still able to identify the phone even after it had been wiped clean.

Uber 'Blacked Out' Apple Headquarters

To hide this behavior, Uber set its system up so that the relevant code would be hidden (and inactive) when accessed from a device in a specific geographic area: namely Apple's headquarters in California.

That tactic eventually failed to work, revealing to Apple that Uber had carried out a clear-cut violation of its rules designed to stop fraudulent apps. The Times says Cook told Kalanick that if it didn't cease the activity immediately, it would delete Uber from the iTunes story. That would have made the service unusable to somewhere in the region of a third of potential customers, devastating Uber's business. (Source: nytimes.com)

Actions Explained As Anti-Fraud Program

Uber does not deny breaking the rules, but says it was not attempting to track users or their location in the way that it can do while they have the app installed. Instead it says the "fingerprinting" technique was used to detect fraudulent activity on both sides of the ride. (Source: techcrunch.com)

The app was designed to catch people who would use a stolen credit card to get a free ride, then wipe their phone and start over with a new account. Secondly, it wanted to catch drivers who would repeatedly wipe and reuse a second phone to take bogus passengerless trips designed to cash in on special programs that rewarded them for "recruiting" new passengers.

According to Uber, it still uses a fingerprinting technique but that it is modified to comply with Apple's rules.

What's Your Opinions?

Do you think Uber's actions were justified even if they broke the Apple rules? Should Apple have given it a second chance or banned the app immediately? Would you stop using a convenient service if you had reservations about the company's behavior?

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Comments

matt_2058's picture

Good for Apple.

No. The only reason I regularly consider going to an iPhone is the fact that apps work. Android? No QC whatsoever in the playstore. Put a microSD slot on the iPhone and I'm there.

No. Blatant and calculated violation. One of those 'ask for forgiveness rather than permission' deals and the proof is the activity going dormant near Apple facilities.

Absolutely. Do it all the time. In fact, just changed some hotel reservations because I questioned the integrity. I got one answer on the phone, but my emailed itinerary had much different info. All little things, but it added up to almost doubling the price of a night.

JeffRL's picture

I wouldn't use Uber if I was dying and it was my only way to get to the ER. The sooner Kalanick is booted out, hauled into court, and fined into bankruptcy, the better.

And I still wouldn't use Uber if that happened.

ifpusr's picture

Immediate ban, no second chance, ruin Uber if that's what it takes to get rid of its unscrupulous CEO.

This sort on intrusion is not to be tolerated.