A proposed class action lawsuit has been filed against Uber on behalf of a class of Lyft drivers who claim their electronic communications and whereabouts were unlawfully intercepted, accessed, monitored and transmitted via Uber’s “Hell” spyware.
What does the class action allege?
The scathing 19-page lawsuit alleges the defendants—Uber Technologies, Inc., Uber USA, LLC and Raiser-CA—deployed their “Hell” spyware to gain unauthorized access to their top competitor’s computer systems. Even further, the complaint claims Uber used “employees, contractors or agents” to pose as Lyft customers with the goal of tracking drivers’ location data to determine which drivers worked for both companies.
Filed in California, the lawsuit makes very particular claims regarding Uber’s alleged years-long use of its deliberate, privacy-invading “Hell” program:
“[The defendants] intentionally developed spyware that allowed it to gain unauthorized access to computer systems operated by its competitor, Lyft, and pose as Lyft customers. Using Hell, Uber employees, contractors, and/or agents were able to access the location of up to eight Lyft drivers (e.g., class members) at one time and obtain their unique Lyft ID. Each Lyft ID is unique, akin to a social security number, which allowed Uber to track Lyft drivers’ locations over time.
Upon information and belief, Uber repeated this process millions of times using its sophisticated Hell spyware’s digital capabilities from 2014 through 2016.”
The complaint goes on to note that Uber has never publicly acknowledged its Hell spyware, yet “did not deny its existence when asked to respond to news reports.”
Why would Uber want to know which drivers work for both companies?
According to the lawsuit, Uber’s aim in deploying the “Hell” tracking program was to collect location data to determine which drivers also worked for Lyft. More specifically, the complaint continues, Uber was mining for overlap between sets of location data to not only improve its own platform, but to harm Lyft’s operations. The plaintiff alleges Uber eventually made a dent in its goal by not only poaching some of its rival’s drivers, but by crucially affecting Lyft riders’ wait times.
“Uber accomplished this by incentivizing drivers working on both platforms to work primarily for Uber, thereby reducing the supply of Lyft drivers which resulted in increased wait times for Lyft customers and diminished earnings for Lyft drivers,” the lawsuit contends.
Who is included in the proposed class?
Individuals included in the proposed class include anyone in the United States who worked as a Lyft driver while not working for Uber at the same time whose private information and whereabouts were allegedly obtained through Uber accessing computer systems operated or used by Lyft within the last four years.
The lawsuit also proposes to cover a California-specific class of individuals who drove for Lyft while not working for Uber whose information and whereabouts were obtained through the above-described methods within the last four years.