Surprise, surprise, Uber is in legal trouble again. This time, the ride sharing company is being accused of spying on drivers for the competition, Lyft. According to TechCrunch, a Lyft driver named Michael Gonzales has begun a class action lawsuit against Uber, seeking $5 million in damages. That’s not all to the story, though. I think “the other” ride sharing company, Lyft, might be the answer to Uber getting more ethical.
Searching Through Heaven and Hell for Trouble
Uber didn’t waste much time in proving that it had questionable ethics. Internal The ride sharing company’s employees have allegedly used a software tool called both God View and Heaven to track high profile politicians, celebrities, journalists, and even personal acquaintances. Yes, that’s right, some Uber employees used Heaven to track their ex-boyfriends, ex-girlfriends, and ex-spouses.
With Hell, Uber is said to be after a different type of trouble: poaching employees. The software is supposedly able to allow Uber to see how many Lyft drivers are available for rides, what their prices were, and even which ones were driving for Uber as well as the competition. That gives Uber the ability to figure out how to offer those double-dipping drivers an incentive to move over exclusively to Uber.
Even More Invasion of Privacy
This behavior is very troubling, on a personal level. I use Uber quite a bit, but don’t live in a major metropolitan area where the number of drivers for Uber and Lyft is roughly equal. In fact, there are probably two Uber drivers in my area for every Lyft driver. I want to see more competition in the ride sharing arena, not less, and Uber’s unfair business practices could prevent that from happening.
However, I’m cognizant enough to realize that what Uber does has a much broader impact. This is a company that truly is worthy of a boycott, simply because they demonstrate almost no scruples whatsoever. CEO Travis Kalanick has even been called to the carpet by Tim Cook over the company’s privacy invasion tactics.
Worthy of a Boycott?
Yes, I think it might be time to boycott Uber, even if it might generate some inconvenience. Apparently, being told by Tim Cook to straighten up or ship out wasn’t enough, because Uber hasn’t stopped what it was doing or admitted to its breaches of privacy. The company has been accused not only of invading its employees’ and customers’ privacy, but also sexual harassment, discrimination, theft of intellectual property, and what TechCrunch calls Kalanick’s “bratty behavior.”
I’ve spoken to roughly a dozen Uber drivers, and they all love working for Uber. None of them have run into the types of problems that drivers in larger metropolitan areas have had. With that said, those drivers are probably not very strongly connected with the company’s executives. I’m living in an area an hour away from any major cities, with limited employment opportunities, so many of these drivers are probably just thankful for a job.
On top of that, the drivers I’ve talked to who work for both Uber and Lyft report quite a few problems with the latter’s app. It disconnects them pretty frequently, so they get so frustrated they give up for the day. Uber’s app doesn’t have these problems, so they’re focusing mostly on driving for the original ride sharing company when Lyft’s software misbehaves.
The Moral of the Story: Lyft Needs to Step Up
I hate to say it, but it’s true. I’d like to say that Uber needs to just straighten up their ship and start following basic ethics, but they’re simply not going to do so without a compelling reason. Lyft needs to step up its software fixes and start better serving all of its regions, even those that are away from the prying eyes of regulators and the more privacy-conscious consumers. Otherwise, Uber doesn’t really have any reason to change.