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U.S. Prosecutors to Investigate Uber's Alleged Theft of Waymo's Self-Driving Trade Secrets

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A U.S. judge presiding over Waymo's trade-secrets theft lawsuit against Uber has asked federal prosecutors to investigate the claims in the case, it emerged on Thursday (via Bloomberg).

U.S. district judge William Alsup also partially granted Waymo's bid for an injunction against Uber's self-driving efforts, and rejected Uber's arguments that the trade secret allegations should proceed in private.


Google's self-driving Waymo car division originally filed the lawsuit against Uber in February, accusing the company of stealing its self-driving intellectual property.

Specifically, former Google employee Anthony Levandowski is accused of stealing 14,000 confidential files that included data on Waymo's laser-based radar (LiDAR) system, which the company called "one of the most powerful parts" of its self-driving technology.

In referring the case to the U.S. Department of Justice, Judge Alsup said that in the absence of "smoking gun" proof of wrongdoing by Uber, he was not taking a position on whether or not charges are warranted, but noted there was "ample evidence" that Levandowski had breached his duty of loyalty to Waymo.

Uber declined to comment on the referral to prosecutors, while Levandowski has already recused himself from LiDAR-related work while the case is ongoing, but the news is yet another setback for the ride-hailing service as it attempts to revive its tarnished image following multiple controversies over recent months.

The Department of Justice is already investigating the company over its use of "secret" software that allowed its drivers to operate in areas where Uber was banned or restricted. The so-called "greyball" software is said to have allowed the company to identify undercover officials and block them from booking rides, in order to prevent them from proving that Uber was operating illegally.

Last month it emerged that Apple CEO Tim Cook threatened to pull Uber's app from the App Store in early 2015 after discovering that it was secretly "fingerprinting" iPhones that used the app. Uber said it used the identification method to prevent fraud, despite knowing the tactic is a clear violation of Apple's app privacy guidelines.

Article Link: U.S. Prosecutors to Investigate Uber's Alleged Theft of Waymo's Self-Driving Trade Secrets
 

nwcs

macrumors 68000
Sep 21, 2009
1,927
2,562
Tennessee
Uber cheats. That's all there is to it. They've cheated in several ways and they're starting to be held accountable for it. It's not unusual, unfortunately, for a developer to take some sample code with them when they change jobs. Usually it's just rote code that isn't a trade secret. If this person took that much with them then it's clear that they were motivated in some manner to either damage Google, help Uber, or was incentivized to do it.They'll pay the price for it for sure.
 

Soylent Yellow

macrumors member
Jun 4, 2014
42
62
Strange, a story about the judicial clashes between two self-driving car companies ends up in the ‘iOS blog’ section of the site.
 

69Mustang

macrumors 604
Jan 7, 2014
7,585
14,375
In between a rock and a hard place
Uber cheats. That's all there is to it. They've cheated in several ways and they're starting to be held accountable for it. It's not unusual, unfortunately, for a developer to take some sample code with them when they change jobs. Usually it's just rote code that isn't a trade secret. If this person took that much with them then it's clear that they were motivated in some manner to either damage Google, help Uber, or was incentivized to do it.They'll pay the price for it for sure.
"Waymo accused Anthony Levandowski—a former Google engineer now working for Uber—of having downloaded “over 14,000 highly confidential and proprietary design files for Waymo’s various hardware systems.” In particular this allegedly included “Waymo’s LiDAR and circuit board” designs—a total of nearly 10 gigabytes." - Ars Technica

Ars has been following this case closely. They've done several good write ups on the details. Uber's in trouble.
[doublepost=1494591785][/doublepost]
Strange, a story about the judicial clashes between two self-driving car companies ends up in the ‘iOS blog’ section of the site.
Probably because the primary way to interact with Uber is through their mobile app. Hence iOS blog.
 

78Bandit

macrumors 6502a
Jun 13, 2009
683
1,234
You can't expect a majority of consumers to be advocates for social justice. People generally want the best product at the best price and don't think about the processes that created it. You see it all the time in animal cruelty accusations against the big farm conglomerates like Tyson. People still buy their product even though their suppliers engage in reprehensible behavior and are repeatedly outed by animal protection groups and agencies.

Ultimately that is what laws and the court system are for. They enforce behavioral codes like theft of intellectual property. Depending on consumers to even remotely give a crap, let alone pay a higher price or experience less convenience, in protest of a company's unethical behavior is an exercise in frustration. Even the best organized boycotts will fizzle out after a relatively short period of time in the absence of publicized legal intervention.
 

JRobinsonJr

macrumors 6502a
Aug 20, 2015
652
1,157
Arlington, Texas
Uber cheats. That's all there is to it. They've cheated in several ways and they're starting to be held accountable for it. It's not unusual, unfortunately, for a developer to take some sample code with them when they change jobs. Usually it's just rote code that isn't a trade secret. If this person took that much with them then it's clear that they were motivated in some manner to either damage Google, help Uber, or was incentivized to do it.They'll pay the price for it for sure.

The challenge with all of this is all about intent. Uber *may* have been involved in the IP theft, through either ignoring what was happening or by specifically asking for this. Uber *may* be nothing more than an unaware recipient of the benefits of this IP theft. OR... Uber *may* not be involved and have not benefitted. Any of those are possible.

I was always taught to avoid the appearance of impropriety. Regardless of intent, Uber is screwed.
 

Analog Kid

macrumors 603
Mar 4, 2003
5,551
3,973
I fear that having Otto in between gives Uber a layer of deniability. I hope there's a paper trail somewhere showing Uber knew this all along. With the long list of ethical and criminal violations this company has hanging over it, it needs to be brought down and its investors need to be left empty handed. There is no excuse for an investor to still have their money in this venture-- they read the same news we do. If they're still supporting this company they can't plead ignorance.
 

nwcs

macrumors 68000
Sep 21, 2009
1,927
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The challenge with all of this is all about intent. Uber *may* have been involved in the IP theft, through either ignoring what was happening or by specifically asking for this. Uber *may* be nothing more than an unaware recipient of the benefits of this IP theft. OR... Uber *may* not be involved and have not benefitted. Any of those are possible.

I was always taught to avoid the appearance of impropriety. Regardless of intent, Uber is screwed.
I once worked as a software dev in a company that was accused of something similar. It doesn't matter if the intent is there or not. If the company profited from it then they're in trouble regardless. If Uber has/had access to this information and subsequently incorporated it they are screwed. There's no way management would be unaware of a sudden burst of productivity/capability all attributable to one person. Management had to notice and turned a blind eye. That seems to be their corporate culture.

For the totality of their various illegalities and improprieties and alleged issues I hope Uber has some significant penalties.
 

WBRacing

macrumors 65816
Nov 19, 2012
1,291
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UK
But aren't we also using, and sometimes preferring, Samsung's excellent components in spite of their questionable business shenanigans? Not saying that therefore it's ok.
I think it would be fair to say that 99.999% of the things that we purchase / use each day are not vetted first to make sure that none of the firms that produced them have practices that offend our moral compasses.

From the way Nike shoes are assembled to the way that some companies do business like Marks & Spencer in the UK in the 90's, with their extreme bully tactics used on suppliers, we all turn a blind eye to some degree.

Somehow though, Uber just seem to me to be so much worse. Convenience ultimately comes at a cost, just look at the rise of supermarkets and the subsequent loss of local butchers / grocers etc.. For our convenience, we have lost quality and local trade. If Uber grow and knockout most of the other cab firms, ultimately we will pay a price. Eventually.
 

Tinmania

macrumors 68040
Aug 8, 2011
3,524
1,009
Aridzona
The challenge with all of this is all about intent. Uber *may* have been involved in the IP theft, through either ignoring what was happening or by specifically asking for this. Uber *may* be nothing more than an unaware recipient of the benefits of this IP theft. OR... Uber *may* not be involved and have not benefitted. Any of those are possible.
It is worth pointing out, at least based on the judge's comments, that there doesn't appear to be much doubt about what Levandowski did. Yet he is still employed at Uber, or Uber-owned Otto.



Mike
 

Vanilla35

macrumors 68040
Apr 11, 2013
3,342
1,412
Washington D.C.
The "I don't like them, but I like their convenience." Trading character for convenience, keep it up.

At this point, they're only in business because people turn a blind eye to the crap they've done.

I agree. If Lyft wasn't in business I'd be harder to avoid, but I use Lyft for everything. Slightly cheaper and a whole lot less of a sketchy company. Even the Uber app's theme is dark and ominous.
 

miniyou64

macrumors 6502a
Jul 8, 2008
625
2,212
I agree. If Lyft wasn't in business I'd be harder to avoid, but I use Lyft for everything. Slightly cheaper and a whole lot less of a sketchy company. Even the Uber app's theme is dark and ominous.
How is Uber even slightly sketchy?
 

Gasu E.

macrumors 601
Mar 20, 2004
4,637
2,665
Not far from Boston, MA.
I once worked as a software dev in a company that was accused of something similar. It doesn't matter if the intent is there or not. If the company profited from it then they're in trouble regardless.

Intent does matter. If there was no intent, they can easily lose a civil suit, which will cost them money. If there actually was intent, that could be criminal.
 

sudo1996

Suspended
Aug 21, 2015
1,496
1,182
Berkeley, CA, USA
The taxi companies were mafias, super sketchy. "You either die a hero or you live long enough to see yourself become the villain."
 
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SBlue1

macrumors 68000
Oct 17, 2008
1,638
1,887
Uber really is one of the sketchiest companies around today by far. I do love their service though.

As long as people like you give them money they will continue to act like they do. Stop using them and a better company may step up. Its like people saying I hate the birds covering my porch with poo, but hey I will still feed them cause they are soooo cute!
 

LDN

macrumors member
Jul 21, 2014
99
195
As long as people like you give them money they will continue to act like they do. Stop using them and a better company may step up. Its like people saying I hate the birds covering my porch with poo, but hey I will still feed them cause they are soooo cute!

Yeah, no. Real life doesn't work like that. Something better won't magically appear if people stop using Uber. There's no reason why the better alternative can't appear while Uber is still raking in the cash and functioning normally.
 

miniyou64

macrumors 6502a
Jul 8, 2008
625
2,212
You can't expect a majority of consumers to be advocates for social justice. People generally want the best product at the best price and don't think about the processes that created it. You see it all the time in animal cruelty accusations against the big farm conglomerates like Tyson. People still buy their product even though their suppliers engage in reprehensible behavior and are repeatedly outed by animal protection groups and agencies.

Ultimately that is what laws and the court system are for. They enforce behavioral codes like theft of intellectual property. Depending on consumers to even remotely give a crap, let alone pay a higher price or experience less convenience, in protest of a company's unethical behavior is an exercise in frustration. Even the best organized boycotts will fizzle out after a relatively short period of time in the absence of publicized legal intervention.
Social justice? Free markets are the solution. Not government intervention.
 

JRobinsonJr

macrumors 6502a
Aug 20, 2015
652
1,157
Arlington, Texas
Social justice? Free markets are the solution. Not government intervention.

Agreed! A lot of the issues surrounding Uber are exactly the opposite. Government collusion with the taxi/cab monopolies that don't want competition forced Uber to look for ... creative methods ... to work around the rules. Get government out of the way, level the playing field, then let the market decide.
 
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