Uber has quickly become the villain of a still ongoing drarma. It’s the typical story of a successful company willing to do anything and everything to stay that the top, even when that means breaking the rules. And break the rules Uber did, according to this new report. Uber has allegedly been “fingerprinting” iPhones, identifying them even after they have been fully erased. It was a gross violation of Apple’s privacy policies and a practice that went on for almost a year until Apple CEO Tim Cook put a stop to it.
Drivers who wanted to take advantage of Uber’s incentives for raking up the trips would register multiple iPhones as fake passengers. Uber needed a way to fight this system and chose to fingerprint iPhones as its countermeasure.
Fingerprinting a device means identifying it as something unique, like an unchanging serial number. The difference is that identification isn’t physical but digital. In Uber’s case, this meant that the Uber app could identify it has been installed on an iPhone, presumably a banned or blocked one, already. And that happens even after the iPhone has been wiped clean of any data.
Uber CEO Travis Kalanick supposedly instructed software engineers to identify users who are likely to be reviewing the app for Apple. The app would then hide the code responsible for fingerprinting and, thus, make it pass the review process. In other words, Kalanick knowingly and actively tried to fool Apple.