Tim Cook Threatened to Remove Uber From the App Store Over iPhone Tagging Tactics

Discussion in 'MacRumors.com News Discussion' started by MacRumors, Apr 24, 2017.

  1. MacRumors macrumors bot


    Apr 12, 2001

    Apple CEO Tim Cook threatened to pull Uber's app from the App Store in early 2015 after discovering the ride-hailing company was secretly "fingerprinting" iPhones that used the app, it emerged on Sunday.

    The claim appeared in a New York Times report profiling Uber's risk-taking chief executive Travis Kalanick, who was apparently summoned to Apple's campus for a face-to-face meeting with Cook over the app's behavior.

    Travis Kalanick (left) and Tim Cook at a 2016 fashion gala (Image: Reuters)

    According to the report, Uber was trying to prevent fraudsters from creating multiple fake accounts on the same device to collect new account bonuses, but to do this it had been recording the UUID serial numbers of iPhones so that it could identify them even after the app had been deleted and the phone wiped.

    Knowing that the approach was a clear violation of Apple's app privacy guidelines, Uber implemented the tactic regardless, and even went so far as to geofence Apple's Cupertino campus so that Apple engineers using the app wouldn't see its fingerprinting behavior.
    However, the tactic didn't go unnoticed by Apple engineers for long. Soon after the discovery was made, Tim Cook had a meeting with Kalanick and demanded that Uber stop the fingerprinting immediately, otherwise the app would be removed from the App Store. Facing the loss of millions of iPhone customers which would essentially destroy the ride-hailing business, Mr. Kalanick acceded.

    This isn't the first time reports have emerged over the Uber app's dubious-sounding behavior. Concerns were raised late last year when users complained that the app appeared to track them for days or even weeks after they last used the ride-hailing service, forcing an explanation from the company.

    The New York Times article offers more detail on the Uber CEO's history of controversial business tactics and can be read here.

    Article Link: Tim Cook Threatened to Remove Uber From the App Store Over iPhone Tagging Tactics
  2. miscend macrumors regular

    Nov 5, 2009
    Its a dubious company with dodgy business practices. I'm 100% all in support for the London black Cab drivers whose trade is being affected.
  3. gnasher729 macrumors P6


    Nov 25, 2005
  4. budselectjr macrumors 6502a

    Oct 6, 2009
    I don't know how their board of governance sits back and allows this type of behavior year after year. Being privately held they can do whatever they want I guess.
  5. Abazigal macrumors G4


    Jul 18, 2011
    Here's where I am conflicted. I love the service, even as I find some of their practices deplorable, and as long as Uber continues to operate in my country, I will never use another taxi for as long as I live.

    The taxi companies really have only themselves to blame for becoming so lazy and complacent and allowing themselves to be disrupted by a better, more efficient service. The uber drivers I have encountered are way more polite, knowledgeable and have a better attitude overall compared to the taxi drivers I have come across.
  6. LinusR macrumors 6502


    Jan 3, 2011
    I wonder how they found out about the geofencing.
    And if Uber did it, how can we be sure that other companies and their apps don't do that, too?
  7. davie18 macrumors 6502

    Dec 29, 2010
  8. SarcasticJoe macrumors 6502a


    Nov 5, 2013
    I'm most definitely not a fan of Uber (I consider them to be on par with the mafia), but I can actually understand why they did this. Maybe the right way to do it would have been going to Apple directly from the get-go and try to get Apple to help root out the problem and identify the scammers for Uber?
  9. tardegrade macrumors regular


    Jan 14, 2009
    Devon, UK.
    Their trade is going to be affected a hell of a lot more by autonomous cars in the not too distant future.
  10. davie18 macrumors 6502

    Dec 29, 2010
    Well I think we've all been in a situation where we want to do something but we're afraid to ask if we're allowed in case the answer is no, and then we go and do it anyway. I think this is one of those times.
    --- Post Merged, Apr 24, 2017 ---
    Well yeah, it's going to get a vast boost without them having to pay all their drivers.
  11. fitshaced macrumors 68000


    Jul 2, 2011
    I think you're being a bit hard on taxi services. The Uber idea was always going to trump anything else and was always going to be done by someone outside of the taxi industry.

    I have never got an Uber and don't plan on doing so. I expect they'll have some serious competition sometime soon and I will look at using a competitor. I just hear too many stories about Uber that steers me clear of them.
  12. Manatlt macrumors 6502a

    Aug 26, 2013
    London, UK
    Nah. Too expensive.
  13. KohPhiPhi macrumors 6502a

    Feb 9, 2011
    What can I say... I love Uber!

    Affordable, quick, polite, secure, convenient... as long as there is Uber, I wont take another taxi in my life. Why pay more for an inferior service? Perhaps taxis shouldnt have slept complaciently in their monopoly for so long... a better competitor came in and took their lunch. God bless the free market.
  14. manu chao, Apr 24, 2017
    Last edited: Apr 24, 2017

    manu chao macrumors 603

    Jul 30, 2003
    Apple has engineers working in other locations than Cupertino. And even if Uber geofenced all known Apple premises, some testing by Apple engineers will be done off-site, eg, for testing their own mapping service. It'll take longer until Apple finds this behaviour, but sooner or later some Apple employee will stumble across it.
  15. robjulo macrumors 65816

    Jul 16, 2010
    Until they become truly cashless (meaning including an option to tip in the app), I'll stick to Lyft.
  16. steve09090 macrumors member

    Aug 12, 2008
    They are very lucky Cook was CEO. If Jobs was still running the show, there would have been no meeting.
  17. Brookzy macrumors 601


    May 30, 2010
    It's about time Apple toughened up against the big companies in the App Store.

    If you're an independent developer, your app is removed immediately at the slightest infraction.

    If you're Facebook (background silent audio), Spotify (in-app purchase violation), or now Uber, you get a slap on the wrist and a meeting with the CEO.

    Uber should have been booted from the App Store the moment this was discovered.
  18. ArtOfWarfare macrumors G3


    Nov 26, 2007
    Just require a valid textable phone number be entered to receive the bonus. That's how I always handle this sort of thing.

    Alternatively... maybe store an IP address and location? If they feel people will be uncomfortable sharing their phone number (although lets be honest - you're summoning strangers with this app... how uncomfortable can you possibly be with sharing your phone number?)
  19. kdarling macrumors P6


    Jun 9, 2007
    First university coding class = 47 years ago
    Since you'll be entering personal account data anyway to register, this seems like a perfectly reasonable need for device registration as well.

    Apple should come up with an API where an app writer can simply ask the mothership if this device has been registered in such a way before, and another call to tag it thusly when it is registered.

    Create a solution, instead of leaving a real and costly problem in place.
  20. mabhatter macrumors 6502a

    Jan 3, 2009
    Yup, they'd get a no-warning, shadow ban like any other ex-developer with their dev and personal accounts locked and emails to Apple bounced as undeliverable. Call up Apple and they be like "what account" we can't discuss closed accounts with anybody because we already deleted your data and you don't exist, sorry.
  21. szw-mapple fan macrumors 65816

    szw-mapple fan

    Jul 28, 2012
    I'm not a fan of Uber's practices, but you've got to admit that geofencing Apple's HQ is pretty ingenious.
  22. Cineplex macrumors 6502a


    Jan 1, 2016
    Okay talk about lack of equality! Most companies simply get their app pulled, yet Tim went crazy to avoid it. Sounds like someone owns shares of Uber.
  23. TallManNY macrumors 601


    Nov 5, 2007
    Well it definitely wasn't to use the geo-fence trick to attempt to hide the actual code going to customers from Apple's engineers.

    Cook's threat would have been a tough one for even Apple to pull off though. Taking an Uber is practically a verb like making a Xerox in many parts of corporate America. Of course those folks are much more likely to carry an iPhone than an Android phone and that part of Uber's business (where the customer never really sees the bill because it goes straight to their corporate card and expense account) is probably their most or possibly only profitable part of their business.

    I personally will use any ride sharing App over Uber. Unfortunately there are still some places where it is the only game in town. But not many and certainly not in NYC where I live. Uber gets very little of my money, but their App is on my phone so I assume they get a bit of my data even if I pretty much never open it.
  24. Abazigal macrumors G4


    Jul 18, 2011
    Let's see...

    Try standing by the roadside with your mom in a wheelchair and see taxi after taxi whiz past you because no driver wants to get down to help. (Not me but my friend).

    Try waiting at a taxi stand behind more than 30 people past midnight with no taxi in sight.

    See empty taxis waiting at a stand with the "busy" signal on because they want you to call and book them.

    Try arguing with taxi drivers on which route to take because they want to take the longer route in order to earn more. Or putting up with stuck up drivers who think I owe them a living, or have no idea how to travel to my destination but don't seem willing to use the maps app on their smartphone, leaving me to have to guide them there.

    Conversely with Uber,

    With maps and pre-determined fairs, that solves some of my biggest bugbears. The GPS tells the driver where to go. Because the fare is decided upfront, there is no incentive to take a longer route. In fact, it is to the driver's benefit to get me to my destination ASAP. It's a win win scenario for both of us.

    The use of an app to hail a ride has all but removed any uncertainty from the equation. I can call an Uber from home, then slowly walk down just as my ride arrives. Waiting by the roadside and praying that a taxi comes your way now seems so barbaric by comparison.

    Uber is far from perfect, but the taxi companies are no angels themselves.
  25. TallManNY macrumors 601


    Nov 5, 2007
    So many rich people use Uber all the time. Apple could not easily pull it. It would been a difficult PR issue for Apple. And anyway, this was an easy negotiation because Uber's shenanigans were not worth losing a huge portion of their business.

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