Past month, details emerged about a secretive unit within Uber dedicated to stealing trade secrets, surveilling competitors, using self-destructing messages, and dodging government regulators. The accusations came from a former member of Uber’s security team, Ric Jacobs, whose 37-page letter detailing all of Uber’s shady behavior was sent to Uber’s management earlier this year. Prior to today, only snippets of the letter have been read aloud in court. Now, a redacted copy of the letter is public as part of the ongoing litigation between Uber and Waymo, the self-driving unit of Alphabet. And it’s a doozy.
The so-called “Jacobs letter” has become the latest twist in the high-profile case between two tech giants over the future of self-driving cars. Its incendiary content caps off a disastrous year for Uber, which has suffered a series of self-inflicted scandals that has upended its senior leadership and raised the prospect of criminal penalties.
At first glance, the Jacobs letter an incredibly detailed accounting of multiple unlawful actions by the ride-hail company. He alleges that Uber’s secretive Strategic Services Group (SSG) “frequently engaged in fraud and theft, and employed third-party vendors to obtain unauthorized data or information.” He also accuses Uber security officers of “hacking” and “destruction of evidence related to eavesdropping against opposition groups.” And he says Uber’s ex-CEO Travis Kalanick knew about a lot of it.