The Uber Files: Massive leak reveals Biden and Macron aided Silicon Valley giant
The Uber Files are thousands of secret documents made public in July 2022 by British newspaper The Guardian and the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists. It reveals how the company courted top international politicians and used ruthless tactics to dominate the taxi service market.
The leak shows how the company lobbied important world leaders, such as German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and US President Joe Biden, with a few of them playing along with the company’s interests.
Among the top politicians, Uber courted Emmanuel Macron. The French President was on a first-name basis with Uber founder and former CEO Travis Kalanick.
Macron, then French Minister of Economy, agreed to push for legislation that would favor Uber, according to the leaked documents presented by the ICIJ.
Another major European political player that was courted by the taxi service company was former Dutch European Commissioner Neelie Kroes.
Kroes, who served in the higher echelons of the EU between 2004 and 2014, was in charge of digital affairs for four years. The BBC highlights that she secretly lobbied for Uber, in a potential breach of EU ethics rules.
Kalanick also met with then-Vice President Joe Biden at the World Economic Forum in Davos.
After their meeting, Biden appeared to mend his speech to mention a CEO whose company provides “freedom to work as many hours as they wish, manage their own lives as they wish”.
The Guardian mentions that Uber executives also met with Irish prime minister, Enda Kenny, Israel’s Benjamin Netanyahu (pictured), and British chancellor George Osborne.
Osborne, who served under Prime Minister David Cameron from 2010 to 2016, was singled out in company notes as a “strong advocate” of Uber.
The Uber Files also reveal the existence of a “kill switch”, which would have rendered company data impossible to access for law enforcement agents.
Former CEO Travis Kalanick used the kill switch at least once, with the Amsterdam branch of the company, as revealed by an e-mail.
Image: Thought Catalogue / Unsplash
The kill switch was reportedly used in Canada, Belgium, India, Romania, Hungary, and at least three times in France.
When taxi drivers protested Uber’s unfair practices across Europe, Kalanick also encouraged counter-protests made up by Uber drivers, regardless of the risk that these might turn violent.
‘Violence guarantees success’, Kalanick said in one of the e-mails. Since then, a spokesperson from the former CEO has made clear he never said Uber should capitalize on violence at the expense of driver safety.
The leak, according to The Guardian, consists of over 124,000 documents that span 5 years of the time the company was headed by Travis Kalanick.
These include more than 83,000 e-mails and WhatsApp messages from 2013 to 2017.
Kalanick served as CEO until he was forced out of Uber in 2019, amid a series of scandals involving sexual harassment and an environment of misogynistic 'bro culture' inside the company.
Image: Priscilla Du Preez / Unsplash
“There is much our former CEO said nearly a decade ago that we would certainly not condone today”, an Uber spokeswoman stated to The Guardian.
Regarding the Uber Files, the company pins the blame squarely on the practices of its former CEO and calls his ousting one of the “most infamous reckonings in the history of corporate America.”
Hopefully, the Uber Files will bring a change for the better for those who depend on the gig economy.
Image: Dan Gold / Unsplash