Compliance Management, Threat Intelligence, Privacy

Report: Uber employee used data-scraping tool to gather info on Australian competitor

An Uber employee used a data-scraping tool to round up online data concerning an Australian competitor in order to poach drivers from its business, according to a report this week from ABC News in Australia.

Reportedly created in 2015, the tool, called Surfcam, was previously reported to have been used against a rival ride-service company Singapore. Its alleged use in Australia, however, is a new revelation.

A former senior Uber employee reportedly told ABC that a company official at one point used the tool to seek out information on the Australian ride-booking company GoCatch. "Surfcam allowed Uber Australia to see in real time all of the competitor cars online and to scrape data such as the driver's name, car registration, and so on," the anonymous source said.

Armed with that information, Uber reportedly could then attempt to lure away GoCatch drivers with employment opportunities, and ultimately "put fledgling Australian competitors onto the ropes," the source continued.

According to ABC's source, the Uber employee who created the program (by modifying off-the-shelf data-scraping software) was the one responsible for using Surfcam against GoCatch -- until management found out and ask him to stop.

An Uber Australian spokeswoman reportedly told ABC that the company prohibited Surfcam following an audit it conducted.

The source stated that the Surfcam was developed by a staff member in the Sydney head office who modified off-the-shelf data scraping software. Moreover, since that time, "We have made significant changes to our leadership team, including our CEO, and to the fundamentals of how the company operates, putting integrity at the core of everything we do," she said.

GoCatch remains in business, but Andrew Campbell, its co-founder and chief executive, reportedly called the alleged use of Surfcam "appalling," adding that "The damage that that has done to GoCatch and other businesses is significant and frankly it should have been stopped."

Bradley Barth

As director of community content at CyberRisk Alliance, Bradley Barth develops content for SC Media online conferences and events, as well as video/multimedia projects. For nearly six years, he wrote and reported for SC Media as deputy editor and, before that, senior reporter. He was previously a program executive with the tech-focused PR firm Voxus. Past journalistic experience includes stints as business editor at Executive Technology, a staff writer at New York Sportscene and a freelance journalist covering travel and entertainment. In his spare time, Bradley also writes screenplays.

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