Uber under FBI investigation over Hell program used to track Lyft drivers


Uber acknowledged Friday it was the subject of a federal investigation into a software tool it used in the past aimed at interfering with competing ride-sharing group Lyft.

An Uber spokesman told AFP that “we are cooperating with the investigation” after a Wall Street Journal report on the probe, while noting that the tool is no longer being used by Uber.

The report said the FBI and New York law enforcement officials were investigating use of the “Hell” software program which could track drivers for the rival ride-sharing group Lyft.

The US daily said the “Hell” program allowed Uber to create fake Lyft accounts and to trick the rival system into believing prospective customers were seeking rides in various locations around a city.

It added that it also gleaned data on drivers who worked for both companies, to enable Uber to offer incentives to leave Lyft.

The report is the latest in a series of woes for Uber, which replaced its top executive last month as part of an effort to clean up a workplace culture marked by cut-throat competition, sexism and unfair competition with rivals.

Uber noted that a civil lawsuit filed by a Lyft driver over the “Hell” program had been dismissed by a federal court.

Read: A timeline of Uber’s rough year as Uber CEO Travis Kalanick resigns

Another part of the program was used to identify drivers who used both Lyft and Uber. Uber reportedly used that information to target these drivers with incentives to lure them away from Lyft. The company reportedly discontinued the use of Hell in 2016.

Earlier this year, a former Lyft driver filed a class action lawsuit against Uber over its use of the Hell. The suit alleged that Uber’s secretive tracking program violated various privacy and communications acts, but it was ultimately dismissed last month.

The investigation into Hell is not the only one Uber’s newly minted CEO has to worry about. In May it was reported that the US Justice Department opened a criminal probe into the company for its use of “Greyball,” software that allowed it to evade local regulators in towns where the company wasn’t licensed to operate. The Justice Department is also investigating whether Uber violated the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.

Theverge and AFP contributed to this report

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