Uber’s controversy-plagued 2017 just keeps getting worse, with its president Jeff Jones quitting the company following intense scrutiny on the company’s “destructive” internal culture and revelations of covert tactics used to evade law enforcement.
Jones was the second in command under Uber founder and CEO Travis Kalanick, and had only been with the company for 7 months. Recode reported his departure is a direct result of the long list of controversies Uber has faced this year, especially multiple claims of workplace harassment and sexism from former employees.
“The beliefs and approach to leadership that have guided my career are inconsistent with what I saw and experienced at Uber, and I can no longer continue as president of the ride-sharing business,” Jones said in a statement.
It comes just a week after Uber has vowed to halt its use of covert tactics to evade law enforcement despite having earlier defended the practice, known as “greyballing”.
The New York Times revealed earlier this month that Uber has been using a series of techniques to identify law enforcement officers in cities around the world, with the company then displaying a fake version of the app and denying them rides.
Where to, Uber? Company President Jeff Jones has left the company without direction.
It was part of the billion-dollar company’s efforts to evade law enforcement in cities where its service was yet to be legalised and regulated, including in Australia, where officers regularly go undercover by booking UberX rides and then fine the drivers for operating illegally.
Uber has gradually been regulated by state and territory governments around Australia, but for years operated outside the law, and its use of “greyballing” shows the company’s longstanding willingness to openly flout local laws.
Techniques Uber used to identify officers included drawing up a “digital perimeter” around government offices in a city and then monitoring which people frequently opened and closed the Uber app nearby. Uber also looked at user’s credit card information and checked if it was linked to something like a police union.
Any users identified through these methods were then tagged as a “greyball” and were shown a fake version of the app when trying to book a ride.
Following the revelations, Uber initially defended the practice, saying its purpose was to protect drivers from competitors.
“This program denies ride requests to users who are violating our terms of services - whether that’s people aiming to physically harm drivers, competitors looking to disrupt our operations, or opponents who collude with officials on secret ‘stings’ meant to entrap drivers,” Uber said.
But following widespread public condemnation, Uber has changed its tune, announcing last week that it would be scrapping the “greyballing” technique, but that this will “take some time”.
More harrassment claims
The revelations came as another female former Uber employee has gone public with allegations of widespread workplace harassment within the company.
Former Uber engineer Kaela Lusk wrote a blog post detailing her experiences with “disrespect, condescending managers and sexism” while working there, including being told her career was not progressing because she wore tank tops.
“In my time there, I saw malicious fights for power, interns repeatedly putting in over 100 hours a week but only getting paid for 40, discrimination against women and prejudice against the transgender community,” Lusk wrote in the blog.
After reporting these claims to HR, Lusk said no changes were made except for her eventually leaving the company.
“If Uber wants to become better, I think shedding light on dark situations like this is the first step to bringing about change. Management needs to stop shying away from the issues and pretending problems don’t exist,” she wrote.
It follows an explosive blog post by former Uber employee Susan Fowler which described the company’s “destructive” culture and systemic covering up of sexual harassment claims, leading to an internal review.