Apple Caught Uber Secretly Tagging iPhones and Threatened to Remove its App From the App Store

Uber App

A report from The New York Times details how Uber was flouting Apple’s App Store rules and identifying and tagging iPhones even after its app was deleted from them. The ride-hailing company was doing this to prevent the creation of fake accounts.

This type of practice violates Apple’s privacy guidelines and the company immediately removes such apps from the App Store when they are caught. Uber, in a bid to ensure that it does not get caught in the act, set up a geofence around Apple’s headquarter in Cupertino and changed its code so as to ensure that it was hidden from Apple employees.

Eventually, Apple discovered what Uber was up to and this led to a meeting between Apple’s CEO Tim Cook and Uber’s CEO Travis Kalanick in early 2015. Cook told Travis that Apple has found out what Uber was up to and to stop with such malicious moves altogether or the app will be removed from the iOS App Store.

If Apple had ended up removing the Uber app from its App Store, it could have single-handedly destroyed the company’s business as it would lose access to all its iPhone customers. So, the ride-hailing company had no choice but to accept Apple’s demand. The scolding that Uber’s CEO Kalanick received from Tim Cook also shook the former quite a bit.

An Uber spokesperson has already issued a statement to The Verge clarifying the company’s practice:

“We absolutely do not track individual users or their location if they’ve deleted the app. As the New York Times story notes towards the very end, this is a typical way to prevent fraudsters from loading Uber onto a stolen phone, putting in a stolen credit card, taking an expensive ride and then wiping the phone—over and over again. Similar techniques are also used for detecting and blocking suspicious logins to protect our users’ accounts. Being able to recognize known bad actors when they try to get back onto our network is an important security measure for both Uber and our users.”

Uber has had a controversial year so far, with reports of rampant sexual harassment within the company and questionable moves like its Greyball program.

[via NY Times]