Will Apple Kill the Uber App (and Uber)?

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Apple could effectively kill Uber by simply removing the Uber app from Apple’s App Store.

This is exactly what Apple threatened to do after it learned the Uber app had been designed specifically to circumvent Apple’s privacy rules. Uber was able to track iPhone users even after they had deleted the app from the iPhone or iPad devices.

According to the New York Times, Apple’s CEO Tim Cook called Uber’s Travis Kalanick to a meeting in 2015. Cook bluntly stated that he would remove the app from the App Store unless Uber resolved the issue immediately.

The Uber App: Coding on the Dark Side

Uber used a technique specifically banned by the App Store distribution agreement. The practice, referred to as “fingerprinting,” allows the developer to tag any iPhone even without its app installed. That’s pretty shady. But wait, it gets worse.

Developers made the Uber app undetectable by Apple staff. They used “geofencing”, a technique which defines specific geographic boundaries for location aware devices. The Uber app limited functionality in certain regions. In this case, the limitation was placed on Apple headquarters to make it difficult for their engineers to discover there was a problem.

This is not the first nefarious software Uber has used. The “Hell” program tracked Lyft drivers and “Greyball” misled law enforcement agencies.

 

About Jim Ogden

Jim is an information technology strategy consultant who has traveled extensively for client projects. Despite having logged many miles for business, it is the personal travel he most values. When traveling for pleasure, Jim prefers to seek out the authentic soul of the places he visits. His favorite travel memories are not of the tourist-friendly areas but rather the places off the beaten-path. As an expat and foodie, Jim brings a perspective of writing based on maximizing the experience of traveling.

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Comments

    • The meeting itself took place in 2015 but the report of the meeting was only disclosed a few days ago in the Times. Apple has chosen not to remove the app so far. However, given that Uber has engaged in at least two more questionable technology practices (as I mentioned in the article), its permanency is not guaranteed. Considering also the volatility of the CEO, the mass exodus of executives, and the plausibility that Uber may produce additional ethically-debatable software tools, this is still a relevant news item.

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