Ride-hailing app Uber’s China ambitions came to a halt in August, when the company ceded its operations in that country to rival Didi Chuxing. But one of Uber’s aggressive tactics to win in China nearly cost it some very valuable real estate: a place in the Apple App Store.
In a wide-ranging profile of Uber CEO Travis Kalanick yesterday, New York Times writer Mike Isaac reveals Uber had been “fingerprinting” iPhones, reportedly to detect Uber drivers in markets such as China using resold devices to create new rider accounts to boost their ride numbers and incentive earnings. However, by placing code on iPhones that remained even if the devices were wiped for resale, Uber was violating Apple’s privacy terms.
To prevent Apple engineers from detecting its use of such code, Uber then “geofenced” the region around the Apple’s California headquarters, Isaac reported. But Apple engineers beyond that geofenced perimeter eventually spotted Uber’s code, leading Apple CEO Tim Cook to call Kalanick in to his office for a face-to-face talk in early 2015.
Cook’s message: Stop fingerprinting iPhones or risk having Uber kicked out of the Apple App Store. Kalanick agreed to the request.
Multiple PR Black Eyes
While it’s a fast-growing global company valued at close to $70 billion, Uber has yet to turn a profit. In recent months, the firm has also been hit by one scandal after another.
In January, a “DeleteUber” campaign launched on Twitter after the company said it would suspend surge pricing for trips to and from New York City’s JFK International Airport during widespread protests against President Donald Trump’s executive order barring travelers from seven Muslim-majority countries. New York City’s taxi alliance had stopped offering airport rides to show support for travelers and protestors.
In February, former Uber engineer Susan Fowler wrote a lengthy piece…