Uber faced yet another challenge on Monday when a former Lyft driver filed a class-action lawsuit alleging that a secret program created by the ride-hailing giant to spy on its rival’s drivers violated federal and state privacy laws,The Guardian reports.
The program, known internally as Hell, was revealed on 12 April by the tech news site the Information. Uber allegedly used the program to track and identify Lyft drivers, building up profiles of individuals and figuring out who was driving for Uber and Lyft. Uber then prioritized sending rides to drivers who used both apps, hoping to persuade drivers to abandon Lyft, according to the report.
Uber disputed the charge of giving preference to drivers using both services in a comment to the Information but has not commented further on the program.
The lawsuit, filed by Michael Gonzalez, who drove for Lyft from 2012 until November 2014, asserts that in using Hell, Uber engaged in “unlawful invasion of privacy and interception of electronic communications and images”.
The program damaged Lyft drivers, the suit argues, by reducing the total number of drivers on the platform, thereby inhibiting Lyft from offering cheap and quick rides.
The complaint cites the 2012 supreme court case United States v Jones, which found that Americans have constitutional protections against GPS tracking by law enforcement. Uber did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the lawsuit.
Monday’s lawsuit is the latest in a slew of bad news for Uber. In recent weeks, the New York Times has revealed two other questionable features of the Uber app.
After the Times reported on Greyball, a secret program to evade law enforcement, the company discontinued the feature. On Sunday, the Times reported that Uber had violated Apple’s privacy rules for iOS apps, resulting in a private rebuke from Tim Cook.
Uber has also been rocked by a viral #DeleteUber campaign, allegations of widespread sexual harassment and gender discrimination, the departure of a raft of top executives, and a major legal battle with Google spinoff Waymo.