Uber uses its in-app podcasts to broadcast anti-union messages to drivers

The City of Seattle says it will let Uber drivers form a union, and Uber has retaliated by producing a series of anti-union audio programs that it is pushing to Uber drivers' apps, where the programs light up a non-dismissable alert asking the drivers to listen to the program. Read the rest

If Google wins its trade secrets suit against Uber, it could tank Uber

Google is suing Uber, alleging that the company recruited a former Google exec who had secretly offered to give them access to trade-secrets from Google's self-driving car project. Read the rest

Uber-driving lawyer explains to cop why he doesn't have to stop video recording him

Jesse Bright is a lawyer who also drives Uber; when Wilmington, North Carolina police Sgt. Kenneth Becker stopped him and insisted that he stop recording the stop because of a "new law," Bright kept on recording and kept on insisting that he was allowed to do so. Read the rest

Uber's "sharing economy" is really the "taking economy"

U Washington robot-law scholar Ryan Calo (previously) writes, "Technology ethnographer Alex Rosenblat and I have a new paper arguing that the Uber Greyball program, whereby Uber serves a fake version of the app to police, is part of a broader pattern of participant manipulation. Uber uses Greyball-like tools against drivers and consumers as well." Read the rest

Uber uses data-mining to identify and block riders who may be cops, investigators or regulators

Greyball is Uber's codename for a program that tries to predict which new signups are secretly cops, regulators or investigators who could make trouble for the company, deployed in "Boston, Paris and Las Vegas, and in countries like Australia, China and South Korea" where the company was fighting with the authorities. Read the rest

Comprehensive roundup of articles about Uber's awfulness

Jamie Zawinski collected a good 20 different articles, each covering some nasty corner of Uber, a disgusting or illegal or plainly unethical thing someone there did, or some other reason why we should all stop giving it money. Here's a bonus one he didn't include: Tech and the Fake Market tactic, which points out that unlike other freelancer-based services, Uber treats drivers like employees and sets their prices. And guess what: Lyft is awful too! Read the rest

Uber CEO snaps at driver complaining of pay rates, later vows to 'grow up,' get 'leadership help'

After Bloomberg News published a video of Travis Kalanick being a total dick to an Uber driver who complained about how poorly Uber drivers are paid, the Uber CEO and co-founder issued a sorry-ish, apology-ish public statement.

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The internet promised open markets, delivered rigged ones, then fake ones, then outright monopolies

Markets don't solve all our problems, but they sometimes produce remarkably efficient systems for producing and distributing goods, and the internet traded on that promise with marketplaces like Ebay (anyone can sell, anyone can buy); Google (anyone can publish, anyone can read), and Amazon (one marketplace where all goods are transparently priced and ranked). Read the rest

After sexual harassment account, Uber exposé shows aggressive, unrestrained work culture

After a former Uber engineer detailed her account of sexual harassment while working there for about a year, New York Times reporter Mike Isaac dug into the story and got the goods. His exposé describes an amoral Ayn Randian meritocracy filled with aggressive jerks, in which one could absolutely imagine impunity for sexual harassment being an accepted norm.

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Ex-Uber engineer describes her year of being sexually harassed at Uber

Susan J. Fowler joined Uber as a site reliability engineer in November 2015. She was sexually harassed at work and Uber's human resources punished her for reporting it. She says other women at Uber have had similar experiences and that many have quit in disgust.

After the first couple of weeks of training, I chose to join the team that worked on my area of expertise, and this is where things started getting weird. On my first official day rotating on the team, my new manager sent me a string of messages over company chat. He was in an open relationship, he said, and his girlfriend was having an easy time finding new partners but he wasn't. He was trying to stay out of trouble at work, he said, but he couldn't help getting in trouble, because he was looking for women to have sex with. It was clear that he was trying to get me to have sex with him, and it was so clearly out of line that I immediately took screenshots of these chat messages and reported him to HR.

Uber was a pretty good-sized company at that time, and I had pretty standard expectations of how they would handle situations like this. I expected that I would report him to HR, they would handle the situation appropriately, and then life would go on - unfortunately, things played out quite a bit differently. When I reported the situation, I was told by both HR and upper management that even though this was clearly sexual harassment and he was propositioning me, it was this man's first offense, and that they wouldn't feel comfortable giving him anything other than a warning and a stern talking-to.

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Former Uber engineer alleges sexist abuse in workplace, CEO Travis Kalanick responds

Updated with response from Uber CEO Travis Kalanick, below.

Susan Fowler Rigetti, a former engineer at Uber, describes in a blog post her experience in a workplace where sexual harassment takes place with impunity, and people who are abused at work are further abused by the organization for which they work.

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Uber's VAT-avoidance means it owes millions to EU states and will face huge cuts to future EU profits

The 2015 UK Employment Tribunal case that determined that Uber drivers were employees means that Uber will have to give the UK government 16.67% of its drivers' earnings for Value-Added Tax, going back four or more years (that would be £20M for 2015 alone); and the ruling will likely apply to Uber's EU-wide rules (because VAT rules are harmonized across the EU) -- so not only does Uber owe hundreds of millions to EU governments for the past 4+ years' earnings, but it will face a 16.67% (or more) reduction to all future earnings. Read the rest

Excellent, deep series on Uber's Ponzi-scheme economics

For the past week, Naked Capitalism has run a series of articles by transportation industry expert Hubert Horan on the economic shenanigans of Uber, which cooks the numbers it shows investors, drivers and the press to make it seem like something other than a black box that uses arrogance and lawlessness to make a bet on establishing a monopoly on transport in the world's major cities. Read the rest

Uber is running scared of Juno, a NYC competitor that's kicking its ass

Juno is a "driver-friendly" rideshare service that competes with Uber by paying its drivers more and giving drivers the ability to pick up a fare, get them to install the Juno app, and give them a discount. Read the rest

AOL "You've Got Mail" guy is now an Uber driver

When you logged into AOL in the 1990s, you were greeted with the voice of Elwood Edwards. Last night, Brandee Barker was headed to one of Hillary Clinton's Ohio campaign headquarters for canvassing when she happened to meet Edwards. He was her Uber driver!

From CNN:

Edwards, a longtime voice actor, recorded the famous famous phrase -- along with others like "Welcome," "File's Done" and "Goodbye" -- because of his wife. Back in the late 80s she worked for Quantum Computer Services, the company that would later become AOL, and she overheard the company's CEO saying he wanted a voice to notify people when they receive email.

She told them about her husband, he recorded the phrases on a cassette tape and became the internet's voice. He was paid $200 for the voice over, he told Barker.

In addition to his voice over work, Edwards worked for several years as a news editor at a TV station in Cleveland before recently retiring.

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Uber promises flying cars within 10 years

“Just as skyscrapers allowed cities to use limited land more efficiently, urban air transportation will use three-dimensional airspace to alleviate transportation congestion on the ground.”

Ride-sharing service Uber released a 97-page white paper today that describes a network of “on-demand, fully electric aircraft that take off and land vertically.” The Vertical Takeoff and Landing aircraft are referred to as VTOLs. Uber's proprietary network of VTOL service will be called “Elevate.”

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US endorses self-driving cars, with a catch: Feds want to control tech approval, not states

Federal auto safety regulators today said that self-driving cars “will save time, money and lives,” but also sent a clear signal that they want the power to inspect and approve technology before it hits the highways, rather than each U.S. state setting its own safety standards.

U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said on a press call today that a new federal premarket approval system "would require a lot more upfront discussion, dialogue and staffing on our part."

The government's statement today is big news for Uber, Google, Apple, and other Silicon Valley firms pouring millions of R&D dollars into figuring out how to swap human drivers for smart machines, or at least allow us to share control in “semiautonomous” setups.

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