Uber Files: Top official ‘cannot recall’ actioning ‘kill switch’, email proves he did
Uber’s Senior Vice-President Pierre-Dimitri Gore-Coty testified at the French ‘Uber Files’ parliamentary investigation committee on Thursday (25 May) that he could not recall an email, seen by EURACTIV, whereby he personally requested actioning the data-destruction ‘kill switch’ tool.
Uber’s ‘kill switch’ tool, the existence of which was revealed in the ‘Uber Files’ leaks in July 2022, sought to prevent police and regulators from accessing sensitive data, essentially blocking access to IT services.
The tool was scrapped in 2017 under Uber’s new CEO Dara Khosrowshahi. The company publicly recognised that the kill switch had been part of a series of “mistakes, ” resulting in the departure of founder and then-CEO Travis Kalanick.
France’s parliamentary investigative committee was established in January in the wake of the Uber Files leaks, which exposed the lobbying tactics used by the American firm to gain influence among senior French political leaders, including the then-economy minister Emmanuel Macron.
The committee aims to better supervise lobbying power in French policy-making circles by thoroughly investigating Uber’s lobbying tactics – both past and present.
Uber is not what it used to be, CEO tells French MPs
Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi appeared before the ‘Uber Files’ investigative committee of the French Parliament on Thursday (25 May), making the case that the American company had radically changed its lobbying ways in the past five years.
Last Thursday, Gore-Coty, former Uber Regional General Manager for Western Europe and now Senior Vice-President in charge of Uber Eats, was heard as part of the committee’s work.
When asked whether he had ever actioned the kill switch himself, he said under oath that he had “no exact memory”, though he did not deny its use in Europe during Kalanick’s time.
An e-mail seen by EURACTIV, however, proves Gore-Coty did action the kill switch at least once, at a time when Uber was under great scrutiny by Dutch authorities in 2015, on suspicion that the private hire service UberPop was illegal.
Unlike Uber’s current taxi service, UberPop was unlicensed and run by individuals without formal training.
The email, dated 2 April 2015, which only contains a subject line and no text in the body, reads “Kill Switch in AMS asap please” and was sent from Gore-Coty himself. EURACTIV received confirmation the acronym ‘AMS’ stands for Amsterdam.
It was sent to an Uber IT engineer, with Uber’s then top C-suite team in copy, including Travis Kalanick himself.
The Guardian, who took part in the investigations, revealed in July that the former Uber CEO had asked that the kill switch be used in Amsterdam in that same time period. The leaked files reveal that kill switches were used in six EU countries, at least.
The French radio broadcaster France Inter also confirmed Gore-Coty’s involvement in actioning the kill switch in Amsterdam. The tool was also used in France.
“We do not deny using the kill switch in the context of the DGCCRF [French anti-fraud authorities] investigation” in late 2014 and early 2015, Gore-Coty told the MPs on Thursday.
Pressed by committee rapporteur and leftist MP Danielle Simonnet to give a precise response over his personal involvement in triggering a ‘kill switch’, Gore-Coty said: “I act in good faith when I effectively say I don’t remember which email I sent when […]. If you have evidence that I sent such an email [to action a kill switch], then I’ll be ready to recognise its authenticity”.
“We have already widely acknowledged the mistakes of the past, including the fact that this software should never have been used to thwart regulatory actions,” a Uber spokesperson told EURACTIV.
The company also confirmed that the kill switch had been disbanded since Khosrowshahi’s arrival as CEO in 2017.
What’s changing for platform workers in the EU?
Have you ever ordered food from the comfort of your home or have you ordered an Uber to take you home after a party? If the answer is yes then you’ve participated in the gig economy.