More than 124,000 documents revealing the inner workings of Uber have been leaked to The Guardian and then shared with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ). The leaked records cover 40 countries and span 2013 to 2017, the period in which Uber was aggressively expanding.
Uber lobbied leaders around the world, seeking support to help pave the way for an app-based, gig-economy model of work. And in a bid to shape policy debates, Uber paid prominent academics hundreds of thousands of dollars to produce research that supported the company’s claims about the benefits of its economic model.
In addition to meeting then US vice-president Joe Biden at Davos, Uber executives met face-to-face with Macron, the Irish prime minister, Enda Kenny, the Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, and George Osborne, the UK’s chancellor at the time. Ex-EU commissioner Neelie Kroes was reportedly in talks to join Uber before her term ended – and then secretly lobbied for the firm, in potential breach of EU ethics rules.
The documents also show how Uber prevented police from accessing its data by installing a “kill switch” on its computers. The leaked files suggest the technique, signed off by Uber’s lawyers, was deployed at least 12 times during raids in France, the Netherlands, Belgium, India, Hungary and Romania.
In a statement responding to the leak, Uber admitted to “mistakes and missteps”, but said it had been transformed since 2017 under the leadership of its current chief executive, Dara Khosrowshahi. “We have not and will not make excuses for past behaviour that is clearly not in line with our present values,” it said. “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.”