Uber CEO Travis Kalanick’s risk-taking attitude and general disregard for rules nearly brought his company to its knees, according to new revelations.
As revealed in a wide-ranging The New York Times feature on Kalanick, the Uber founder risked the app being removed from Apple’s App Store after its use of covert tactics were discovered by Apple CEO Tim Cook in early 2015.
For months previously, Uber had been employing a tactic known as ‘fingerprinting’, where a piece of code was used to identify iPhones even after the Uber app had been deleted, allowing the company to monitor the phone and tell when the app had been reinstalled.
The company justified this as a common anti-fraud measure to prevent “bad actors” from reinstalling the app after previously being banned.
But the tactic violated Apple’s privacy guidelines, and Kalanick even instructed Uber employees to camouflage the app from Apple employees to prevent them finding out – using a similar method to its highly controversial ‘greyball’ technique used to avoid local law enforcement officers around the world.
But Apple did eventually discover Uber’s dodgy tactics, leading Cook to summon Kalanick to the company’s headquarters in California in early 2015 for a tense meeting, the NYT reports.
“So, I’ve heard you’ve been breaking some of our rules,” Cook reportedly told Kalanick, before threatening to remove Uber from the App Store.
This would have virtually crippled Uber’s business, so Kalanick backed down and changed its operations to bring them into line with Apple’s guidelines.
It’s yet another example of Kalanick’s -- and Uber’s in general -- ‘beg for forgiveness rather than ask for permission’ approach to business, seen through its constant tension with local law enforcement agencies.
The latest revelations continue Uber’s atrocious start to 2017, which began with the #DeleteUber campaign following Kalanick’s role in US President Donald Trump’s tech advisory council.
Then in February, a former employee’s numerous allegations of sexual harassment at the company and management’s efforts to cover this up placed intense scrutiny on Uber’s “destructive” internal culture.
This was followed by revelations of Uber’s ‘greyballing’ technique to avoid local enforcement, which led its own president to quit the company after just seven months.
Kalanick also found himself in further hot water earlier this year after a video of him arguing with an Uber driver was leaked online.
This forced the CEO to deliver a “profound apology” to employees, and embark on a search for a new COO to assist with his leadership.
“The criticism we’ve received is a stark reminder that I must fundamentally change as a leader and grow up,” Kalanick said in a statement.
“This is the first time I’ve been willing to admit that I need leadership help and I intend to get it.”