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Uber Ripley Program: Company Shut Down Computers To Block Law Enforcement Access

Uber Ripley Program: Company Shut Down Computers To Block Law Enforcement Access

The latest revelation to come to light is that the company had a tool called "Ripley" which let the San Francisco-based company remotely lock computers in foreign offices should the police come knocking. There's also that time it geofenced Apple HQ to try and stop the company from realising Uber was still tracking phones that had deleted the Uber app. The authorities believed Uber had violated tax laws and obtained a warrant to collect evidence.

Ripley allowed Uber's team at its San Francisco headquarters to shut down a device if necessary. The tool is christened "Ripley", inspired by the trigger-happy, flamethrower-wielding character from the Aliens movie franchise.

It's no secret that corporations often employ questionable and often downright illegal tactics to hide sensitive, potentially incriminating evidence from investigators.

Bloomberg reported Thursday that Uber used the tool, known as Ripley, from spring 2015 until late 2016 in several cities. "It's the only way to be sure".

Most companies don't expect police to raid their offices, but Uber isn't most companies.

Albert Gidari, director of privacy at Stanford Law School's Center for Internet & Society added that companies often protect networks and computers against dawn raids where the scope of authority is in question and the data to be seized is in another jurisdiction. She then suggested some sort of app that could counter those raids, and thus Ripley was born.

While many companies shut down computers during police raids to give managers time to read police warrants, Uber's system differed in that it was used at least a dozen times, according to Bloomberg's sources. "It also generally may permit access to areas and data not covered by any warrant".

According to Uber it no longer uses Ripley because it was not effective and now uses an off-the-shelf software called Prey and another type of software it built called uLocker.

'Managers on-site knew what to do, say people with knowledge of the event.' Bloomberg says.

In response to the article, Uber released a statement to Bloomberg that reads, "Like every company with offices around the world, we have security procedures in place to protect corporate and customer data".

'When it comes to government investigations, it's our policy to cooperate with all valid searches and requests for data.