Uber staffers reportedly spied on celebrities and ex-partners

The ridesharing service supposedly still has trouble preventing internal abuse.

Daniel Sorabji/AFP/Getty Images

It's not just intelligence agencies that are prone to abuse by workers wanting to spy on innocent people. As part of a wrongful termination lawsuit, ex-Uber engineer Ward Spangenberg states that Uber didn't do enough to stop employees from spying on customers following the 'God View' probe. Reportedly, staffers used easily accessible trip data to snoop on the activities of everyone from celebrities to politicians and ex-partners. Sources for the Center for Investigative Reporting even claim that Uber relies primarily on "the honor system" to prevent abuse -- allegedly, there's not much to stop a rogue worker from looking at your information.

Spangenberg was officially fired for violating policies by reformatting his work computer and accessing email that covered his performance review, but he disagrees. He claims that it's common for employees to reformat their PCs, and that he was testing a program that searched company email. These were really just pretexts for firing someone who's not only relatively older (currently 45 years old), but who blew the whistle on shoddy security practices. On top of the surveillance abuse, Uber reportedly deleted files it was legally required to keep, and encrypted computers in non-US offices to prevent police from getting information.

Not surprisingly, Uber isn't having any of this. In a statement, it tells us that it's "absolutely untrue" that most employees have access to trip info, and that there's an "entire system" with both procedural and technical limits on what workers can access. It also has "hundreds" of team members who protect data through procedural and technical means. Just having access to some data doesn't mean that an Uber staffer can see all of it, and some employees (such as the anti-fraud and safety teams) need that info to do their jobs. You can read the full statement below.

Former security engineer Michael Sierchio disputes the claim that Uber properly enforced its policies. Also, Spangenberg insists that he was asked to encrypt PCs during a Revenu Quebec tax evasion raid, and a judge noted that Uber appeared to be obstructing justice in that case. In other words, the lawsuit is far from settled -- you may not get a better answer until there's a ruling.