Uber is once again accused of using secret software for illegitimate purposes. After reports that the ride-sharing company used so-called "grayball" software to circumvent government regulators, a report has surfaced of another secret program, known as "Hell."
The "Hell" software let Uber track how many Lyft drivers were in an area and where they were, according to The Information. It also let Uber find out which of its drivers also worked for Lyft.
Such software could have given Uber a competitive advantage over its main rival, but could also put the company in legal trouble. According to attorneys consulted by The Information, the existence of this tracking software could leave Uber open to lawsuits for "breach of contract" and "unfair business practices."
This Orwellian software could also create even more bad publicity for Uber, something the company can't afford after months of scandals, including allegations of sexual harassment by a female former engineer, and allegations from Waymo that it benefitted from stolen autonomous-car technology.
The software was reportedly developed by Uber's "competitive intelligence group," also known as COIN. The name "Hell" reportedly comes from it being a parallel to Uber's "Heaven" or "God View" program, which tracks the company's own drivers. According to The Information, Uber started by creating fake Lyft rider accounts, eventually gathering data on driver locations. Uber cross-referenced driver movements to determine which of its drivers also worked for Lyft, according to the report, and offered them bonuses to get them to drive for it exclusively.
Use of the software was reportedly discontinued in 2016, but its existence could still be damaging to Uber's image. The report comes as Uber weathers public-relations crises on multiple fronts. The recent revelation that 8,000 Uber and Lyft drivers failed Massachusetts background checks could also have an impact on the public perception of ride sharing in general. Italy announced a nationwide ban of Uber recently, as well.