Connect with us


Read Now: Leaked Uber Files reveal history of lawbreaking, lobbying and exploiting violence against drivers – 101 Latest News



Leaked Uber Files reveal history of lawbreaking, lobbying and exploiting violence against drivers

#Leaked #Uber #Files #reveal #history #lawbreaking #lobbying #exploiting #violence #drivers

Thousands of leaked confidential files reveal a treasure trove of sketchy and unlawful behavior from Uber. The Uber Files, which were originally shared with The Guardian and the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, show a company that has knowingly broken laws, gone to extreme lengths to avoid justice, secretly lobbied governments, received aid from top politicians and exploited violence against drivers to drum up business.

The damning leak of more than 124,000 documents, now known as the Uber Files, spans a five-year period between 2013 and 2017. It covers Uber’s operations across 40 countries when Uber was still run by co-founder Travis Kalanick, who took an aggressive approach to bringing the ride-hailing service into cities around the world, even when doing so would break local laws and taxi regulations.

The documents, which include 83,000 emails and 1,000 other files including conversations, reveal for the first time Uber’s $90 million-a-year lobbying and public relations campaigns to gain the support of world leaders, such as French President Emmanuel Macron, in order to disrupt Europe’s taxi industry.

In a statement, Uber spokesperson Jill Hazelbaker acknowledged the many mistakes made by Uber under the stewardship of Kalanick, but that his replacement, Dara Khosrowshahi, was “tasked with transforming every aspect of how Uber operates” and has “installed the rigorous controls and compliance necessary to operate as a public company.”

“We have not and will not make excuses for past behavior that is clearly not in line with our present values. Instead, we ask the public to judge us by what we’ve done over the last five years and what we will do in the years to come,” she said.

In the past five years, the company has continued to spend millions on lobbying and marketing campaigns so it can go on treating its drivers as independent contractors, rather than employees. The company also recently shot down a shareholder proposal to gain transparency around Uber’s lobbying efforts.

Contrary to Hazelbaker’s statement that Uber is a company reformed since 2017 — which is when Kalanick resigned as CEO amid a storm of concerns about Uber’s workplace culture, including allegations of sexual harassment, racial discrimination and bullying — Uber has continued to operate its service as is, even when local laws stipulate drivers must be treated as employees. And, despite violent protests and attacks on drivers that date well beyond 2017, Uber has continued to operate in countries and cities where local regulators say drivers must have a license to operate a taxi service.

Let’s break down some of what’s inside the Uber Files.

‘Emmanuel’ and ‘Travis’ on a first-name basis

Paris was the first European city that Uber launched in, and the city fought hard against the new tech company. French taxi drivers staged protests that often turned violent. But Macron, who in 2014 had just been appointed minister for the economy, thought Uber would help create new jobs and economic growth. After meeting with the company’s lobbyists that October, Macron became a champion for Uber’s interests within government, one who would work to rewrite laws in Uber’s favor, the files show.

Mark MacGann, an Uber lobbyist, described the meeting as “spectacular. Like I’ve never seen,” and said, “Lots of work to come, but we’ll dance soon.”

Macron and Kalanick, who soon were on a first name basis, met at least four times, according to the files, including in Paris and at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.

“The openness and welcome we receive is unusual in government-industry relations,” Uber wrote to Macron, noting that it was “extremely grateful” for its kind treatment.

During that year, Macron worked with Uber to rewrite France’s laws governing its services. Uber had launched UberPop, a service that allowed unlicensed drivers to offer rides at a discounted price. The service was banned by the government initially, but as is Uber’s way, it kept the service going as it challenged the law.

“Uber will provide an outline for a regulatory framework for ridesharing,” an email from Kalanick to Macron reads. “We will connect our respective teams to start working on a feasible proposal that could become the formal framework in France.”

When, in June 2015, the taxi driver protests became violent, Macron texted Kalanick saying that he would “gather everybody next week to prepare the reform and correct the law,” according to the files. On the same day, Uber suspended UberPop in France. Later that year, Macron signed off on a decree relaxing requirements for licensing Uber drivers.

A spokesperson for Macron said in an email to the BBC: “His functions naturally led him to meet and interact with many companies engaged in the sharp shift which came out during those years in the service sector, which had to be facilitated by unlocking administrative and regulatory hurdles.”

Aside from Macron, the files also reveal how Neelie Kroes, an ex-EU digital commissioner and one of Brussels’ top officials, was talking to Uber about joining the company before her term ended. Kroes also apparently secretly lobbied for the firm, which potentially breaches EU ethics rules.

‘Violence guarantees success’

The leaked files reveal a cache of incredibly frank and direct conversations between Kalanick and other top officials that reveal a number of unethical practices and disdain for officials who didn’t commit to aiding Uber. Perhaps those that are most jarring are the ones that seem to exploit violence against drivers.

In one exchange, Uber executives warned against sending drivers to a protest in France which could lead to violence from angry taxi drivers.

“I think it’s worth it,” wrote Kalanick. “Violence guarantee[s] success.”

In a statement, Kalanick’s spokesperson said he “never suggested that Uber should take advantage of violence at the expense of driver safety…Any accusation that Mr. Kalanick directed, engaged in, or was involved in any of these activities is completely false.”

One former senior executive told the Guardian that Uber’s decision to send drivers into potentially dangerous protests, knowing the risks, was consistent with the company’s strategy of “weaponizing” drivers and exploiting the violence to “keep the controversy burning.”

The leaked emails suggest that such a strategy was repeated in Belgium, Italy, Spain, Switzerland and the Netherlands. For example, when masked men, reportedly angry taxi drivers, attacked Uber drivers with knuckle-dusters and a hammer in Amsterdam in March 2015, Uber used the violence to try to win concessions from the Dutch government, the files show.

Uber encouraged driver victims to file police reports, which were shared with leading Dutch daily newspaper De Telegraaf.

“[They] will be published without our fingerprint on the front page tomorrow”, one manager wrote. “We keep the violence narrative going for a few days, before we offer the solution.”

Hazelbaker acknowledged that the company had mistreated drivers in the past, but that didn’t mean anyone wanted violence against them.

“There is much our former CEO said nearly a decade ago that we would certainly not condone today,” she said. “But one thing we do know and feel strongly about is that no one at Uber has ever been happy about violence against a driver.”

The ‘kill switch’

Despite Uber’s public-facing mask of innocence and attempts to define angry taxi drivers and regulated taxi markets as “cartels,” the company appears to have known that it was operating illegally in many cities.

Internal emails reveal staff referring to Uber’s “other than legal status,” and other forms of operating services against regulations in countries including the Czech Republic, France, Germany, Spain, South Africa, Sweden, Turkey and Russia.

One senior executive wrote in an email: “We are not legal in many countries, we should avoid making antagonistic statements.” Another executive wrote: “We have officially become pirates,” in response to the strategies Uber deployed to “avoid enforcement.”

A message to a colleague in 2014 by Nairi Hourdaijan, Uber’s head of global communications, even went so far as to say: “Sometimes we have problems because, well, we’re just fucking illegal.”

Regulatory agencies, police and transport officials around the world worked to clamp down on Uber. Some officials would download the app and hail rides so they could pull sting operations on unlicensed taxi journeys and fine Uber or impound drivers’ cars. Offices in dozens of countries were raided by authorities.

That’s where the “kill switch” came in. If law enforcement came to access the company’s computers, Uber would activate a “kill switch” that would restrict officers’ access to sensitive company data like lists of drivers, which Uber thought would harm its growth.

The files reveal that Kalanick asked staffers to hit the kill switch “ASAP” in Amsterdam at least once, according to an email from his account. They also reveal that this technique, which Uber’s lawyers and regulatory departments vetted and signed off on, was used at least 12 times during raids in Belgium, France, India, Hungary, the Netherlands and Romania.

Kalanick’s spokesperson said in a statement that such protocols are common business practice that protect intellectual property and customer privacy, and are not designed to obstruct justice. She also noted that Kalanick “has never been charged in any jurisdiction for obstruction of justice or any related offense.”

(Kalanick has been charged in the past on allegations that he paid hackers $100,000 to cover up a heist that stole personal information from about 57 million of Uber’s users and drivers in 2016.)

Text messages and emails between executives detail multiple other instances in which Uber used the kill switch. For example, in March 2015 in Uber’s Paris office, a “big force (around 25)” of police officers showed up and were “trying to get into laptops,” according to an email from then-lobbyist MacGann to David Plouffe, former Obama aide who joined Uber as head of global branding, communications and policy the year prior.

“Access to IT tools was cut immediately, so the police won’t be able to get much if anything,” MacGann told Plouffe.

In July that year, messages between MacGann and Thibaud Simphal, then-manager of France and now-head of Uber’s global sustainability unit, offer a particularly revealing exchange.

“Use the ‘Zachary De Kievit’ playbook:” he wrote, referencing an Uber attorney. “Try a few laptops, appear confused when you cannot get access, say that IT team is in SF and fast asleep, and anyway this is all controlled by UberBV so they should write to Uber BV with their request. Zac can give a signed copy of his book.”

Simphal’s response: “Oh yeah we’ve used that playbook so many times by now the most difficult part is continuing to act surprised!”

This story is developing. Check back in for updates. 


Read Now: Get 3 months of Adobe CC access plus 100GB of storage for just $30 – 101 Latest News



Adobe Creative Cloud All Apps 100GB: 3-Month Subscription

#months #Adobe #access #100GB #storage

Continue Reading


Read Now: States With Deregulated Energy: The Pros and Cons of Choosing Your Energy Provider – CNET – 101 Latest News



homes with electrical lines at sunset

#States #Deregulated #Energy #Pros #Cons #Choosing #Energy #Provider #CNET

The power of choice is a wonderful thing. And depending on where you live, you may be able to choose your energy provider.  

It’s called energy deregulation, and about 40 percent of US states have it. Commonly known as retail choice, in deregulated states residents have a say in where they get their energy. In these states, public utilities function like any other business: Competitors provide options, and residents choose how to spend their money. 

In regulated markets, however, electricity comes from a designated utility provider and you don’t have a choice. Regulated energy markets create a form of monopoly, meaning no competitors to choose from or switch to, but in which the public utility is still controlled by the state government. 

Which method is most beneficial for the people? Which states have it right? “It’s a question of whether you believe that a free-market environment is best for consumers or that a regulated monopoly is best for consumers,” Joshua Basseches, an assistant professor of public policy and environmental studies at Tulane University, told CNET. 

Here’s what you need to know about energy deregulation, how it works, and whether your state offers you the option to choose.  

For more information on deregulated energy rates and companies, check out CNET partner site, which, like CNET, is owned by Red Ventures.

What is energy deregulation and how does it work?

Energy deregulation refers to a utility system of retail choice, where different companies other than the existing energy utility are able to offer different packages of deals, giving customers a choice of who they purchase energy from.  

In states without a deregulated utility environment, governing bodies manage a regulated monopoly, where one company provides the utility across the state, with rates and prices controlled by the government. 

Whether a state is deregulated or not, that particular state’s utilities are managed by its public utility commission, or PUC, a governing body that regulates public utility rates and services. Different public utility commissions operate in different ways, but their ultimate goal is to represent citizens’ interests when determining utility policies. 

Even in deregulated states, that regulation still exists. That’s why Basseches refers to deregulation as a misnomer — instead, he prefers to use the term “restructured.” 

“What’s often referred to as deregulation is the difference between what’s known as a vertically integrated utility monopoly enterprise — where the utility company generates, transmits and distributes electricity — and a deregulated or restructured environment, where various aspects of that supply chain are opened up to competition and only parts of the cost are regulated by the commissions,” he said.

A brief history of energy deregulation

Beginning in the early 1900s during the early days of electricity commercialization, companies began approaching state legislators to set up a regulatory compact, which became the regulated utilities we know today. That system largely stayed the same until, beginning with The Public Utility Regulatory Policies Act of 1978 (PURPA) and continuing on through the 1990s, a series of legislation allowed states the authority to deregulate or restructure. 

But not every state decided to do so, and decisions were made based on each state’s belief as to what would most benefit residents. Today, about 20 states have some form of deregulated or restructured system, with the majority of states still working with regulated monopolies. 

Deregulated vs. regulated energy markets: the pros and cons

Unfortunately, there’s no easy answer as to whether regulation or deregulation provides a better outcome for the everyday resident. Even for Basseches, an expert who’s spent the last six years on a book project about state-level renewable energy policy, the issue is too complicated to come down on one side or the other.

He says it’s unclear, on a systematic level, whether deregulation has led to decreases in electricity rates. Factors from weather to the war in Ukraine can affect those rates, and even for experts, it’s too difficult to say definitively that one method is the right one. 

“You can look at electricity prices over time and see that they’ve gone up and down, but it’s hard to attribute that,” he said. “They’ve gone up and down both in restructured and traditionally regulated jurisdictions. So in cases where costs went down, it’s hard to say that it’s because of restructuring. But what is clear is that restructuring gives consumers more choice and more direct say in what kind of electricity they want and how much they’ll pay for it.”

Pros of energy deregulation

Basseches and other industry experts say deregulation proponents point to examples like the following as pros of deregulated energy:

  • Deregulated markets give power of choice to the consumer. 
  • Competition should even the playing field against the power of a utility monopoly. 
  • Utility monopolies are less focused on the consumer’s best interest.
  • Deregulated markets tend to be more open to changes like clean energy adoption and technology improvements.

The biggest and most obvious benefit of a deregulated environment is that it gives choice to the people. In an ideal world, PUCs would be trusted to provide the best option for all. But that isn’t always the case, and it isn’t always easy for the consumer to tell. For Basseches, that’s what makes it a worthwhile change. 

“What I like about competition is that, in the absence of transparency, you can have some faith that there’s some check on the power of the utility monopoly by virtue of competition and market forces,” he said. 

A deregulated or restructured system also takes power away from long-standing monopolies. Often, providers have been in place for decades, and critics say they’re focused less on what’s best for consumers and more on maintaining the status quo. 

“What you have to worry about with a regulated monopoly is that it will be best for the monopoly company and not the consumers,” Basseches said. 

Public utilities are usually behemoths that are resistant to change. Basseches says a restructured (deregulated) state can create an environment where companies are able to be more nimble and able to change. That means quicker adoption of new technology, more alternatives and even better options for clean energy. 

“For those who care about climate change and environmental issues, it’s been much easier for renewable energy to penetrate the market in deregulated environments,” he said. “If wind and solar are the cheapest resource and you no longer have utilities owning all the generation, they’re not going to be fighting regulators to hold on to things that are no longer economical but that they’ve invested in.” 

Cons of energy deregulation

  • Responsibility lies with the consumer.
  • Energy shopping experience can be complicated.
  • Consumer education is needed to navigate. 
  • Competition and deregulated market creates opportunity for bad actors or scams.

In a deregulated or restructured environment, the choice is with the consumers — but so is the responsibility. Most people don’t know much about public utilities or energy policy, so they’re required to be more informed in order to make good decisions in a deregulated system. That can lead to wasting or not fully realizing the benefits that choice provides. 

“Usually, if consumers don’t choose an alternative, they’re given the default service provider, which is typically the local utility,” Basseches said. “So it does require the consumer to be more educated.”

Just because a state is deregulated doesn’t mean that state’s PUC is any less important. In fact, in a deregulated state, that commission is the only thing standing in the way of bad actors, which means people and states can be taken advantage of. 

“It really just depends on the vigilance of these public utility commissions,” Basseches said. “One thing I always tell people is to pay attention to public utility commissions. If they’re doing their jobs effectively, they provide a safeguard against exploitation.” 

What US states are deregulated for electricity or natural gas? 

Most states still have regulated utility providers. Just 18 states (and the District of Columbia) have deregulated markets. 

According to the US Environmental Protection Agency, 13 states (and the District of Columbia) have fully deregulated or restructured electricity utilities:

  1. Connecticut.
  2. Delaware.
  3. DC
  4. Illinois.
  5. Maine.
  6. Maryland.
  7. New Hampshire.
  8. New Jersey.
  9. New York.
  10.  Ohio.
  11.  Pennsylvania.
  12.  Rhode Island.
  13.  Texas.

Another five states have partially deregulated or restructured environments:

  1. California.
  2. Georgia.
  3. Michigan.
  4. Oregon.
  5. Virginia.

How to find the best electricity provider in Texas

Basseches said Texas is “a poster child for a fully restructured electricity sector” and called it “extremely restructured.” 

“Restructuring is a continuum and it’s very complex and multilayered,” Basseches said. “Restructuring isn’t just a switch, there are different degrees. And Texas is the most restructured.”

Texas has a wider selection of providers than anywhere else in the country, which is why Basseches advises residents to be as informed as possible when making their choices in “this system on steroids.” Texas residents are likely to receive more solicitations from different suppliers, and the choice can be overwhelming. His advice is simply to seek as much information as possible. 

“Talk to your neighbors,” he said. “The same way you’d make a choice about purchasing a new car, talk to your neighbors, talk to people you trust, and know that the public utility commission works for you and your tax dollars. Don’t be afraid to ask them for help.”

For more information, here’s the Texas PUC Facts and FAQs page and the state’s government-run comparison website: When shopping for electricity plans on any website, before enrolling, make sure to read through the electricity facts label (EFL) or “fact sheet” to learn about the details of each plan. 

How to find the best electricity provider in other states

For Basseches, the best first step in any state is to start with the public utility commissions, or PUCs, whose websites should have information on competitive suppliers, options and more. 

Before making a choice, be sure to read up on options, understand the dynamics of the different companies involved and educate yourself on lingo, pricing and more. 

“Just like investing in the stock market, there’s going to be some risk,” Basseches said. “But the public utility commission does work for the people and they do have the most knowledge because companies have to register with them. So my advice is to get to know your public utility commission, read things carefully and know that everyone is vying for your business. Just like anything else, you have to pay attention.”

Public utility commission websites:

Energy deregulation FAQ

What does deregulation mean in energy?

Deregulation refers to a utility system of retail choice, where different companies other than the existing energy utility are able to offer different packages of deals, giving customers a choice of who they purchase energy from.  

In states with a regulated utility environment, governing bodies manage a regulated monopoly, where one company provides the utility across the state, with rates and prices controlled by the government. 

What are the disadvantages of deregulation in energy?

In a deregulated or restructured environment, both the choice and the responsibility lies with the consumer. Most people don’t know much about public utilities or energy policy, so they’re required to be more informed in order to make good decisions in a deregulated system. That can lead to wasting the benefits that choice provides and can allow unethical companies to take advantage. 

When was US energy deregulated?

Beginning with The Public Utility Regulatory Policies Act of 1978 and continuing on through the 1990s, a series of legislative measures gave states the authority to deregulate or restructure. Today, less than half of US states have deregulated their electricity utility. 

Continue Reading


Read Now: Gig workers get paid, Fidelity slashes Reddit’s valuation and AI conquers Minecraft – 101 Latest News



Gig workers get paid, Fidelity slashes Reddit’s valuation and AI conquers Minecraft

#Gig #workers #paid #Fidelity #slashes #Reddits #valuation #conquers #Minecraft

Hey, folks, welcome to Week in Review (WiR), TechCrunch’s regular newsletter that recaps the week in tech. Hope the summer’s treating y’all well — it’s a balmy 90 degrees here in NYC! — and that some much-needed R&R is on the agenda.

Speaking of “agenda,” mark your calendars for Disrupt, TC’s annual conference, kicking off in September. Whether you’re a startup rookie learning the ropes or a founder hell-bent on changing the world, Disrupt will deliver the tools, knowledge and connections to help you make it happen. You don’t want to miss it.

Elsewhere, stay tuned for City Spotlight on June 7 (Wednesday), which will highlight Atlanta, Georgia, this go-round. Atlanta has emerged as one of the buzziest new hubs in the nation, with booming cybersecurity and software-as-a-service sectors as well as a slew of investors looking to back the hot new startups coming from the metro. Among the speakers at City Spotlight will be mayor Andre Dickens — we’re looking forward to hearing his perspective.

Now with the PSAs out of the way, here’s your WiR!

most read

Fidelity sours on Reddit: This week, Fidelity, the lead investor in Reddit’s most recent funding round in 2021, slashed the estimated worth of its equity stake in the social media platform by 41% since the investment. The devaluation, part of a broader trend that has hit a variety of growth-stage startups across the globe in the past year, raises uncertainties about whether Reddit will maintain its initial intent to reportedly go public at a valuation around $15 billion.

Amazon Prime Data: Amazon is considering offering low-cost or possibly free nationwide mobile phone service to Prime subscribers in the United States, according to a new report from Bloomberg. The tech giant is reportedly in talks with Verizon, T-Mobile, Dish Network and AT&T.

Gig workers get paid: Uber, Lyft, DoorDash and other app-based ride-hail and delivery companies will have to reimburse California gig workers potentially millions of dollars for unpaid vehicle expenses between 2022 and 2023. The back payments come from a provision in Proposition 22, the controversial law that classifies gig workers as independent contractors rather than employees and promises them half-hearted protections and benefits.

Volkswagen’s ace in the hole: Volkswagen is betting big on the upcoming ID.Buzz electric van. With availability of the vehicle still a year out, the automaker is counting on years of pent-up anticipation to not only sell the bus shrouded in nostalgia, but to also have it act as a halo product to bring customers to the brand’s entire EV lineup.

Shopify launches Shop Cash: Shopify’s Shop app is introducing a new rewards program called Shop Cash, the e-commerce platform announced on Friday. The new program is funded by Shopify and earns shoppers 1% back on purchases made using its Shop Pay online checkout service.

Stripe gets into credit: Stripe wants to make it easier for businesses to access credit. The private financial infrastructure giant announced a new charge card program today from Stripe Issuing, its commercial card issuing product. Denise Ho, head of product at Stripe, gave TechCrunch the exclusive details — go read the piece by Mary Ann.

AI conquers Minecraft: AI researchers have built a Minecraft bot that can explore and expand its capabilities in the game’s open world — but unlike other bots, this one basically wrote its own code through trial and error and lots of GPT-4 queries. Called Voyager, this experimental system is an example of an “embodied agent,” an AI that can move and act freely and purposefully in a simulated or real environment.

YouTube Shorts, in minutes: Dumme, a startup putting AI to practical use in video editing, is already generating demand before opening to the public. The Y Combinator–backed company has hundreds of video creators testing its product, which leverages AI to create short-form videos from YouTube content, and it has a waitlist of over 20,000 pre-launch, it says.


Need a new podcast to get your weekend started right? Good news — TC has you covered (and then some). On Equity, the crew took a look at the latest from Web Roulette, Stripe’s acquisition of Okay, what Klarna’s Q1 means for the fintech market and QED and a16z’s early-stage strategies. Found spoke with Dr. Stacy Blain, the co-founder and chief science officer at Concarlo Therapeutics, about the company’s novel therapeutic solutions for drug-resistant cancer. Over at Chain Reaction, Gary Vaynerchuk, the chairman of VaynerX and the CEO of VaynerMedia and NFT collection VeeFriends, spoke on his experiences in the creative media industry. And the TechCrunch Live folks dove into how AI doomerism is overblown — and why the blowhards doing the blowing want it that way.


TC+ subscribers get access to in-depth commentary, analysis and surveys — which you know if you’re already a subscriber. If you’re not, consider signing up. Here are a few highlights from this week:

Competition concerns in the age of AI: AI is rapidly changing how businesses sense, reason and adapt in the market. But these groundbreaking capabilities are creating an upheaval in how companies engage with competitors and consumers. Henry Hauser is counsel in Perkins Coie’s antitrust and litigation practice groups. He muses on this in an informative piece.

Salesforce becomes a data company: Could the data exhaust being generated by the Salesforce family of products become more valuable than the products themselves — at least in terms of new revenue adds? This piece explores the possibility.

Why don’t more scientists become founders?: Why is it so common to see outsiders bringing research out of the lab and not the scientists themselves? It’s a complex issue to unravel, but Rebecca does it deftly.

Continue Reading