By: Chris Yalom | 04-25-2017 | News

Uber Spied on iPhone Users and Tim Cook is Not Happy

A new allegation against Uber CEO Travis Kalanick claims that Uber tracked iPhone users on a consistent basis and hide it from Apple.

Allegedly, Uber used persistent digital fingerprinting on Apple devices in 2014 and 2015. It allowed the Uber application to track iPhones even after the software was uninstalled or the device was wiped entirely.

An Uber spokesperson told Business Insider they absolutely do not track individual users or their location if they've deleted the app.

Recognizing known bad actors when they try to get back onto their network is an important security measure for both Uber and their users.

From a published article in the New York Times exposé about Kalanick, the reason behind Uber's digital fingerprinting was to combat fraudulent claims by drivers who hoped to take advantage of the company's bonus scheme.

Some deceitful Uber drivers around the world used stolen iPhones, they can set up dummy email accounts that had been wiped off their digital information, and use those dummy Uber accounts to create multiple fake rides to earn more bonuses.

The persistent ID tag helps fight such practices but it breaches Apple's terms of service which are aimed at protecting consumer privacy.

In order to overturn Apple's engineers, Uber used a technique known as "geo-fencing." By creating a fake version of their application's code which did not contain the persistent ID tag, the fake code would display any time a person at the physical address of Apple's headquarters attempted to view it.

As Apple engineers could clearly see the suspicious code, it soon raised the alarm with Apple's top brass, including Tim Cook who called Kalanick to his office for a chat.

In the meeting, Tim Cook reportedly told Kalanick, "I've heard you've been breaking some of our rules," and threatened to pull Uber's application from the App Store if the company didn't remove the fingerprinting feature.

Tim Cook and Kalanick already had a talk before on issue reported early 2015 that Uber used a system to identify iPhones after they had been cleared and the Uber app had been deleted, something Uber was doing to combat driver fraud in China.

The Uber application violated Apple's privacy rules and threatened to remove Uber from Apple's Application Store.

They so-called program was named Greyball, it uses data collected from the Uber application. It was developed to identify, track and deceive authorities who attempted to use the app in an attempt to expose Uber's operations in prohibited areas in cities like Boston, Paris and Las Vegas, and in countries like Australia, China, and South Korea.

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