Santa Clara, CA: Uber is facing a privacy class action lawsuit brought by Lyft drivers who assert that Uber used “secret” software to spy on them, allegedly allowing Uber to see Lyft’s coverage areas and which drivers worked for both ride share companies.
Allegedly referred to internally by Uber as “Hell”, the software enables Uber personnel to gain unauthorized access to Lyft computer systems, pose as Lyft customers and see the locations of Lyft drivers and their unique Lyft identification, according to the complaint.
Filed by a former driver for Lyft, Michael Gonzales, against three related companies, Uber Technologies Inc., Uber USA LLC and Rasier-CA, the suit seeks to represent Gonzales and other Lyft drivers whose electronic communications and locations were allegedly intercepted, accessed, monitored or transmitted by Uber.
According to the complaint, "Each Lyft ID Is unique, akin to a Social Security number, which allowed Uber to track Lyft drivers’ locations over time." Uber used the "Hell" software program from at least 2014 to 2016, the suit asserts.
Uber allegedly cross-referenced location data it gathered on Lyft drivers with its own internal records to determine which drivers were working for both companies so it could target them “in order to improve the Uber platform and harm the Lyft platform,” the complaint states. “Uber accomplished this by incentivizing drivers working on both platforms to work primarily for Uber, thereby reducing the supply of Lyft drivers, which resulted in increased wait times for Lyft customers and diminished earnings for Lyft drivers,” the complaint states.
Allegedly, Uber would direct “more frequent and more profitable trips” to drivers who it knew were also working for Lyft, thereby encouraging those drivers to primarily work for Uber, the complaint alleges.
Gonzales worked as driver for Lyft from 2012 to 2014 but never worked for Uber, according to the complaint. He seeks to represent a national class and a California class of drivers.
The proposed national class is defined in the complaint as “all individuals in the United States who (1) worked as drivers for Lyft, (2) while not working for Uber, and (3) whose private information and whereabouts was obtained by Uber by accessing computer systems operated or used by Lyft and the class.” The proposed California class is defined identically, except for removing the words “in the United States.”
According to the complaint, public reports estimate some 315,000 people have driven for Lyft in the United States, and 60 percent of them may have also driven for Uber. As such, the number of members in the proposed national class may be in excess of 126,000, while “common sense dictates that thousands of those individuals are California residents,” the proposed suit states.
The proposed class action claims violations of the Electronic Communication Privacy Act, the California Invasion of Privacy Act and the California Unfair Competition Law and seeks injunctive relief and damages for the alleged privacy invasion.
Gonzales is represented by Caleb Marker and Hannah P. Belknap of of Zimmerman Reed and Mark Burton and Michael McShane of Audet & Partners.
The case is Michael Gonzales v. Uber Technologies Inc. et al, case number 3:17-cv-02264, in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California.