Tim Cook once threatened to remove Uber from the App Store regarding company practices

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Date: Monday, April 24th, 2017, 05:36
Category: App Store, iOS, Legal, News, Software

It’s not always the best idea to get on Apple’s bad side.

In 2015, Apple CEO apparently scolded Uber Chief Executive Travis Kalanick during a face-to-face meeting for tweaking coding to track iPhones even after users deleted the Uber app. “So, I’ve heard you’ve been breaking some of our rules,” Cook said, according to the New York Times, as he told Kalanick to knock it off or Uber would be banned from the App Store — a prospect that would have been disastrous for Uber.

Per the report, Kalanick “was shaken” by Cook’s scolding and agreed to stop tracking the phones.

The practice began in 2014 when Uber drivers in China attempted to game the system in order to appear they were getting more riders and thus higher wages. Drivers would buy iPhones on the black market, wipe their memory and create new “customer” accounts., then repeat the process.

As a result, Uber devised a trick to counter the memory wipes, leaving a digital “fingerprint” on the phone that could identify the device even if it had been wiped. Apple’s privacy policy, however, requires that the device be wiped 100% clean, with no lingering coding. Uber engineers went a step further and covered their tracks through geofencing, essentially blocking their modified code from being seen by users in the area around Apple’s Cupertino, Calif., headquarters.

Uber later defended the practice, labeling it a common industry anti-fraud technique. “We absolutely do not track individual users or their location if they’ve deleted the app,” Uber said in a statement.

The company also offered the following comment:

“As the New York Times story notes towards the very end, this is a typical way to prevent fraudsters from loading Uber onto a stolen phone, putting in a stolen credit card, taking an expensive ride and then wiping the phone — over and over again. Similar techniques are also used for detecting and blocking suspicious logins to protect our users’ accounts. Being able to recognize known bad actors when they try to get back onto our network is an important security measure for both Uber and our users.”

In recent months, Uber has been criticized for evading regulators through its “Greyball” program, been accused of rampant sexual harassment, been sued by Alphabet Inc.’s Waymo for allegedly stealing driverless-car trade secrets and faces a possible $1.1 million fine by California regulators for its handling of drunken-driver complaints.

The company has also seen a departure of top executives, including Kalanick, and is seeking to hire a new chief operating officer to help install better practices for the future.

Via MarketWatch and The New York Times

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