A trove of confidential files has been leaked, revealing the inside story of how top politicians aided the tech giant Uber to broke the law, duped cops, exploited driver violence, and secretly lobbied governments during its aggressive global expansion
The unprecedented leak to the Guardian of over 124,000 documents known as the Uber files reveals the company’s unethical practices that fueled its transformation into one of Silicon Valley’s most famous exports.
The leak covers five years when Uber was led by co-founder Travis Kalanick, who attempted to force the cab-hailing service into cities all over the world, even if it meant breaking laws and taxi regulations.
The data shows how, during the fierce global backlash, Uber tried to shore up support by secretly courting prime ministers, presidents, billionaires, oligarchs, and media barons.
According to leaked messages, Uber executives were fully aware of the company’s illegal activities, with one executive joking that they had become pirates and another admitting, We’re just fucking illegal.
The cache of files, which spans 2013 to 2017, contains over 83,000 emails, iMessages, and WhatsApp messages, many of which are candid and unvarnished exchanges between Kalanick and his top team of executives.
Meanwhile, there are numerous names, primarily from Uber executives, but also from politicians. On the company side, it is primarily founder Travis Kalanick who is portrayed in a negative light. He is said to have responded to French taxi drivers’ protests with the phrase Violence guarantees success.
Various politicians, most notably French President Emmanuel Macron, also play an unflattering role. He is said to have assisted Uber during his tenure as Transport Minister, and Uber and its lobbyists are said to have had a direct line to Macron’s office. Olaf Scholz is also mentioned in the Uber Files, but the company was rejected by Hamburg’s former mayor, prompting Scholz to be mocked as a real comedian.
Otto Fricke, the FDP politician primarily responsible for the Uber lobbying campaign in Germany, will have to answer questions, and former EU Commissioner Neelie Kroes is said to have done a dirty job when she transitioned to the private sector.
Uber, on the other hand, issued a statement about the revelations on its website, which does not deny the company’s dark and difficult history: These errors culminated five years ago in one of the most notorious accounts in American economic history. This account drew widespread public scrutiny, a slew of high-profile lawsuits, multiple regulatory investigations, and the dismissal of several senior executives.
This is why, according to the firm, it hired a new CEO, Dara Khosrowshahi, tasked with transforming every aspect of how Uber works. In short, today’s Uber bears no resemblance to the company’s early days.