The controversial minicab app Uber faces further scrutiny as an astonishing letter that pinpoints a hidden initiative to gather information on rivals, and then cover its tracks, has come to light. The startling find was made on Tuesday and meant the federal judge has delayed the much publicised trade secrets trial between Uber and Waymo just a day before the jury selection was due to start. In what is said to be an unusual step, Judge William Alsup was shown the letter by the United States attorney’s office in Northern California. The judge went on to accuse Uber’s legal team of withholding evidence, meaning a delay to proceedings allowing Waymo’s lawyers to gather more information. According to the New York Times, Judge Alsup said "I can no longer trust the words of the lawyers for Uber in this case,”
“If even half of what is in that letter is true, it would be an injustice for Waymo to go to trial.”
Google's Waymo took legal action against Uber at the beginning of this year, citing claims that a former employee, Anthony Levandowski, worked with Uber to move trade secrets across to Uber.
The letter found was written by a lawyer for an ex-Uber worker called Richard Jacobs.
Mr Jacobs joined the ride-hailing firm in March 2016 as a manager of global intelligence and was swiftly sacked just over a year later in April in which he received a $4.5m settlement for. The former employee stood in court on Tuesday and is now said to be a security consultant for Uber.
Whilst talking with other Uber employees, Mr Jacobs testified, that he found an internal organisation that gathered rivals trade secrets, code and other information.
According to Mr Jacobs letter employees called it the “marketplace analytics team,”. This team visited code-sharing site GitHub, where they would search for sensitive information that may have been inadvertently revealed by rivals. It was also revealed in the letter that this team within Uber also tried “to evade, impede, obstruct, influence several ongoing lawsuits against Uber,”.
According to the very detailed letter the team also tried to look at what other companies were doing. In 2016, Uber employed Ed Russo to help head hunt workers of competitors in an attempt to steal trade secrets.