Uber Exec Obtained Confidential Medical Records of Rider Who Was Rape Victim, Report Says
An Uber executive reportedly obtained confidential files related to a rape case in India, potentially creating more legal drama for the company.
Uber scandals are now so frequent they almost don't qualify as news. Shortly after firing 20 employees as a result of an investigation into sexual harassment, Uber also sacked Eric Alexander, its Asia Pacific president. But Alexander's actions prior to his firing could land Uber in even more trouble, according to a new report.
Alexander obtained confidential medical records of a woman who was raped by her Uber driver in 2014, according to Recode, which cited multiple anonymous sources. He was not among the 20 employees fired in the wake of the sexual harassment probe, but when Recode contacted the company about his actions, Uber said he had been let go.
Alexander's handling of the records was one of 215 incidents of harassment and other misconduct flagged by two law firms, Perkins Coie and Covington & Burling. A Perkins Coie report led to the recent firings, while Covington & Burling has yet to release its report.
The episode stems back to December 2014, when a 26-year-old woman in New Delhi, India, was raped by her Uber driver. The driver, who was already awaiting trial for at least four other criminal charges, was arrested and later sentenced to life in prison. But the case also brought increased scrutiny on Uber, and the company was even banned from operating in Delhi until June 2015.
While Uber was publicly apologetic, some executives did not believe all of the facts of the case, according to Recode. Alexander, who was already in India, began investigating the matter and obtained the woman's medical records. It's unclear whether he was directed to investigate or did so of his own volition, and it's also unclear whether he obtained the records legally.
Alexander reportedly kept copies of the records for about a year, before other Uber executives found out and destroyed them. Prior to that, he showed the files to Uber CEO Travis Kalanick and senior vice president Emil Michael. All three reportedly discussed the possibility that Uber's Indian rival Ola had staged the incident to sabotage Uber. Staffers told Recode that Kalanick, Michael, and Alexander were considering this, although none of them had the medical training to refute anything found in the documents.
In the United States, accessing someone's medical records without proper cause is illegal. The Medical Council of India also places restrictions on medical records, including requiring anyone looking for access to obtain written permission, according to The Verge. Even if permission is obtained, those records can't be shared with other parties.
If the report proves accurate, accessing customers' confidential medical records can be added to the list of accusations against Uber, a list that already includes tolerance of sexual harassment, underpaying drivers, and invasive data practices, among other things. It's unclear how much more bad publicity Uber can take before something gives.