A former Lyft driver sued Uber on Monday in a proposed class-action lawsuit over its recently evealed “Hell” software, which allowed Uber to spoof fake Lyft drivers through a flaw in Lyft’s own design.
In turn, those faux accounts gave Uber confidential location information about the eight nearest Lyft drivers. Not only did this program provide secret information about Lyft, its largest rival, but it also allowed Uber to target its own drivers who also drive for Lyft. Uber could then present them with enticing offers to make sure that they would stay loyal to Uber.
The “spyware,” according to the lawsuit, which reportedly ran from 2014 to 2016, “enabled Defendants to remotely and surreptitiously access, monitor, intercept, and/or transmit personal information as well as electronic communications and whereabouts.” The ex-driver, Michael Gonzales, who never drove for Uber, claims violations of federal and California state privacy laws, and unfair business practices.
The lawsuit specifically cites a famous Supreme Court case from 2012, United States v. Jones, in which the court unanimously found that the police’s warrantless use of a GPS tracker on a suspected drug dealer was unconstitutional. Not only that, the court wrote, such tracking of movement has a chilling effect on “associational and expressive freedoms.”
“The same principles identified by the Supreme Court in Jones apply to the GPS tracking by an opaque entity that operates either as its targets’ employer or their employer’s competitor,” the Gonzales lawsuit continues. “Uber has never publicly acknowledged the use of its Hell spyware but did not deny its existence when asked to respond to news reports.”
Uber did not immediately respond to request for comment.
In recent months, the San Francisco-based startup has faced lawsuits and public scrutiny, ranging from alleged sexual harassment to an employee accused of pilfering key self-driving technology from his former employer, Google.