There's a big difference between keeping secrets for market advantage and to evade the law. In the first case, I want to tell people because i'm building cool stuff, but i can't, at least not until the product is ready. In the latter case, i'd be at least embarrassed, if not ashamed of the tools.
But I agree, it's slick. It's easy to be an armchair quarterback when it's not my career at stake. With millions or billions of dollars on the line, my ethics might erode much faster than i want to admit. In that case, I'd hope evil jfoutz (or ethically devoid jfoutz) would build such a sophisticated tool.
It reminds me of the VW emissions cheating case:
"Hey, have it detect whether the test cycle is running and emit a signal if true."
'Um... why would the system need to know that?'
"Uh, because we don't want the car to freak out when the wheels are turning but it's not moving."
'Oh ... seems legit.'
"And you -- have it minimize NO2 when it gets this signal. But don't talk to him."
In the Uber case, employees might have been told, "oh we want to offer a special discount to law enforcement" ... though even that seems seedy.
But (per my original comment) I don't see how they can keep the circle small. What do they tell support employees to say when someone reports not being able to get a ride despite all the fake cars around?
Good luck defending the NY Times on that basis.
This is even beyond my position on the paper. You're just typing complete falsehoods and expecting to get away with it now, which is sad.
I mean if you really believe the various transportations administrations are corrupt and that the way to solve it is to temporarily disregard the law, then Uber is probably the place to be
Anyone who uses e.g. the Waze app to evade speedtraps is similarly guilty of "systematically avoiding the law."
Lastly, let me just disclaim that I think Uber is run by assholes and so is the police.
I don't know that any of these apply here, but yes, actively avoiding accountability is often a crime on its own. And correctly so, I'd say. Creating fake accounting records as a hobby would be odd but not immoral. But keeping two sets of books in a real business has no purpose beyond enabling illegal activity.
Uber is a social reform movement organized as a profit-seeking business. Of course the forces of corruption and reaction are going to try to stop it under cover of law.
But if they're a social reform movement, they'd very well disguised. They threaten journalists, exploit workers, engage in a variety of skulduggery, and create such a toxic working environment that they need a former Attorney General to investigate.
I think the more likely case is that they are what they appear to be: greedy, amoral people disguising an attempt to gain a monopoly using the guise of social reform.
Regardless, if you have decided that the government doesn't represent the people, it makes your task harder. Unless you're just saying that you can do what you want (which doesn't strike me as much of a moral position) then you have to work to divine what the collective will of your fellow citizens is and honor that.
For a start, in the U.K. it's illegal to use radar detectors [Edit: this first is apparently false; they publically stated that they were going to, but never changed the law. Other countries apparently do ban them, according to wikipedia.], and people have been given criminal convictions for "Flashing their lights" in order to warn incoming motorists of a speed trap.
I'd be interested in a link to the "flashing lights" case too.
RE: Headlight flashing, I can only find sources from a few years ago - http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-humber-12823922 was the one I remember hearing about, but several other instances seem to have taken place; i.e. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/law-and-order/9324722...
Corporate citizens have an obligation to obey the laws of the jurisdictions in which they operate. If they find the laws unacceptable, they should lobby to have them changed.
See: racism and discrimination broadly, segregation, refugees, illegal immigration, unions / union strikes, marijuana, political corruption, cartels, government protected monopolies and so on. There are a vast number of topics that cause people at businesses to be willing to disregard the laws of a given jurisdiction at various points in time (regardless of whether one views the position as being on the moral side or not). It'd be hard to claim that it never makes sense to disobey the law for a business, given just the last century of history in just the developed world, with the plentiful display of wildly irrational or immoral laws that have existed.
We are all better off because uber willfully disregarded these laws and regulations. These laws once had a good reason, but are now still on the books only because incumbents have regulators in their pockets.
As for lobbying to have the laws changed, if you expect startups to be able to lobby in every jurisdiction to get the law changed against incumbents when the regulators often come from the industry the startup is disrupting, then I got a bridge to sell you.
The thing is, we're not. What we've got is a cab company that can offer better and cheaper service than everyone else because it's breaking the law, and it's good at throwing VC money at lawyers to avoid the consequences. What we've got is further damage to the respect for the rule of law and thus to the fabric of civilization, as people see how Uber gets away with illegal activities. Hell, there are many people who are inspired by their antisocial behaviour, and see Uber as an example to follow.
I'd argue that this business is great - it's helping consumers and fixing the world.
One might argue that we are not better off because of this:
The thing is, we're not. What we've got is a business that can offer better and cheaper service than everyone else because it's breaking the law, and it's good at throwing money at lawyers to avoid the consequences. What we've got is further damage to the respect for the rule of law and thus to the fabric of civilization, as people see how this company gets away with illegal activities. Hell, there are many people who are inspired by their antisocial behaviour, and see Uber as an example to follow.
Your argument seems to apply equally well to this case - after all, your argument is not dependent on the law being just or unjust. It completely ignores that point.
Are you willing to follow your argument where it leads? Or do you recognize the flaw in it?
I'd even cut Uber some slack if they weren't so smug about what they're doing. This is just as much about breaking arbitrary laws as it is about how they keep showing that they don't give a shit about society.
> your argument is not dependent on the law being just or unjust. It completely ignores that point.
It does, because in real world, regulations are not uniformly distributed throughout the possibility space. In any working society you can - and should - assume that most laws are there for a reason, and that this reason is just. When that assumption doesn't hold, your country pretty much disintegrates. Hence, going against the law is a special case.
The way I see it, none of Uber's "innovations" actually required illegal actions. They simply don't care, because this way is faster and brings in more money.
As a proof of that I want to point out that many places in Europe managed to implement all those Uber "innovations" some time ago, and it didn't require breaking laws in the way Uber does. Sure, old cab companies were pissed, but things got settled in courts and regulations were updated - just like it should happen in any civilized society.
Ultimately, if Americans want to run their society this way, it's none of my business. I would be happy though, if they stopped exporting their "innovative" methods to countries with working regulatory frameworks.
Note that India also had apps/SMS driven taxi hails - autowale.in started in Pune (my city). But Uber fixed transport and the political situation, whereas autowale.in is just a footnote in history.
In any working society you can - and should - assume that most laws are there for a reason, and that this reason is just. When that assumption doesn't hold, your country pretty much disintegrates. Hence, going against the law is a special case.
Then by your standard, the US and India are not working societies.
Then again, by your standard, it's pretty clear that not all of Europe is working. For example, witness how often French unions and others engage in violent and illegal actions (both assaulting Uber drivers/passengers and others) on a regular basis.
In any case, you seem to be backing away from your original claim and accepting that some laws are unjust and breaking them is ok. Do you argue that American or Indian taxi protectionism laws are just?
"ArmzDealR is providing a great service by eliminating government bureaucracy and providing access to arms that citizens should have. It's good that they help people avoid those onerous registration requirements."
"TraffiKR makes it easy to find cheap labor. There's no paperwork and the workers never complain!"
Are you willing to follow your argument where it leads? Should businesses be allowed to push against any rule at all? Are all laws 'unjust' or are there some laws that are in place to protect public good?
I'm not saying all laws should be broken. I'm saying one must decide whether or not the law is just, and support those who break unjust laws. I see no one even attempting to make the argument that taxi protectionism laws are just. Do you have an argument that they are?
On the surface congestion control seems far easier to implement (especially in a pre-mobile phone context) via restriction of medallions. I don't have arguments one way or the other as to the necessity of congestion control because I've only rarely experienced large cities (NYC, Chicago, London). I believe they are popular for various reasons, but I am not familiar with the arguments for or against.
Determination of liability seems like another obvious reason for a medallion monopoly. Presumably taxis are a higher risk pool for insurance claims, due to the presence of multiple parties. It's unclear to me where the liability falls if an Uber driver is in an accident that mortally wounds a passenger; will their standard insurance (that presumes a certain risk profile) cover the claim? I'm simply not familiar enough to definitely comment, unfortunately.
The latter argument holds more weight with me, but I'm sympathetic to arguments against it.
That being said, it is clear that abusive and overwraught law and regulation invites this impovrishment.
Certainly, there can be laws that are worth breaking. You should be extremely careful before assuming that's the case in any given scenario, and I don't think taxi rules are it, no matter how dysfunctional the USA might be.
Regardless, all laws should be followed. Thats the whole point of society. We agree to follow the laws collectively.
Uber broke a status quo in the state of the transportation industry and we should all be grateful for that. They also became a champion for a certain type of activism that I think a lot of us would like to see more of.
Think carefully before you deny Uber the activist label. Using ethically shady methods to push through social agendas is precisely what activism is. Not everyone falls on the same side of the line, but you can't not call it activism. Labor strikes were considered extremely problematic to many.
As for their activism, this is the flavour we know from dystopian movies about evil corporations disregarding the laws to eke out some profits. In a way, I can't wait for an Uber in biotech sector - maybe a small engineered pandemic is what people need to understand that regulations should not be ignored on a whim by companies seeking profits.
The laws on the books still exist for a good reason. Even if you feel that Uber is somehow exempt/makes good choices with the people it chooses to employ via the platform, does that apply to any other "uber-esque" groups with more lax enforcement?
That's... optimistic. Many laws were put in place to benefit other (incumbent) businesses, or in reaction to conditions that no longer hold, or due to ideas proven false or at least no longer fashionable.
That's not necessarily good reason to break the law (though sometimes it is), but anyone shold feel free to lobby for removal or change of a law.
in other words, thats a terrible argument in support of uber.
To some extent. If the fine is $50 for each infraction, and you have $10bn in the bank, you really don't have to obey the law.
You can lobby to have the law changed and not obey the law (if you are willing to pay any and all fines, while you are lobbying). Uber's use case didn't exist 10+ years ago, and as such, most laws weren't made for that not set up to account for that.
I personally find that to be a valid example of where it's acceptable not to follow the law.
no, you have always have an obligation to. Being obliged doesn't mean you're going to, but you do have an obligation.
> I personally find that to be a valid example of where it's applicable not to follow the law
oh great, now we all get to decide what laws we will or won't follow. is that really the precedent you are arguing for?
The law is generally something that evolves, because the world evolves.
Personally I consider civil disobedience of unjust laws to be acceptable, for either a single person or for an organized group of people (such as Uber).
This works only if it happens on a massive scale. If Uber didn't use this program, it's likely that their civil disobedience would end before it's large enough to get their message out.
The idea that Uber is some civil liberties campaign for improved transportation options rather than a corporation with an unusually aggressive disregard for anyone that gets in their way is rather exploded by the most cursory examination of their actions.
coordinating personal attacks on journalists who criticised them
This was an ethical hypothetical, not a thing that actually happened.
Uber made real bookings and then gave the driver a sales pitch during the ride. All they did was pay their competitors for the right to offer drivers a better deal.
Kind of the opposite of Google/Apple/etc colluding NOT to offer each other's employees a better deal.
You don't have to think taxi medallion laws are particularly rational to find Uber's behaviour in many, many areas indefensible.
I did not make the comparison you seem to be arguing against, namely that Rosa Parks and Uber are equivalent in all possible ways.
only on HN
I disagree that they should lobby to change it. I understand that realistically that is what they will do, but I don't think it's the ethically correct thing.
Laws are in place to benefit all of society, they shouldn't be changed on behalf of specific corporations, regardless of how much money the "donate".
Edit: There is not a fiduciary duty to turn a profit, but there is a fiduciary duty to put the corporation's interests above your personal interests.
And please don't conflate "doesn't support lobbying for XXX" with "doesn't support XXX". They're really orthogonal concepts.
It's like drug dealers using police scanners to determine if the police are nearby.
Obviously that's a dramatic example, but so is the drug dealer example.
If Uber believes that the taxi industry is wrongfully colluding with the government to try to stop Uber from operating, then it's not necessarily wrong for Uber to do whatever it can to continue operating.
That is obviously not true for the extreme example you cited of genocide under fascism, so, I don't think it makes sense to compare the two.
Uber didn't have to have Greyball in the first place. Every driver that got intimidated/assaulted should go to the police. Every time a competitor pulled some shenanigans against Uber, they should sue. And so on and so forth.
This is just smokescreen. It's obvious what the intent was.
Uber can go through the proper legal channels to address the concerns it has.
Let me give you an example here. I think Uber is a bad thing, but there's nothing I can do to oppose them, legally, that is. Should I carry out my own justice, illegally ? You can see that this pattern of thought quickly falls down, because making compromises is actually an important part of living in society.
Once you say "we're not going to follow the law", do you have the moral right to demand it be enforced on other people?
Tax avoidance and laundering of criminal money is a genuine value-add to many an individual's portfolio I don't know why governments around the world want to prevent banks from doing it.
Arthur Andersen did nothing wrong.
Life imitates art.
Is it inherently illegal for a drug dealer to scan for police in the area and close shop if they believe officers are nearby?
It may be...it may also be to avoid the area, for illegitimate (I'm a criminal police are looking for) or legitimate (the local PD is notoriously racist against people of my race, and I want to avoid being hassled) reasons.
The main difference in my view is that Waze is individual people doing this, which we approve of, conversely Uber is a corporation many dislike. In situations like this it's important to acknowledge bias and try to abstract to the general case and reason about that.
That's a valid distinction to make, however given how much development effort companies like Uber and VW invested in their tools, I think those are clear cases of active deferring.
Actively telling all your hooker friends to stay home because the cops are out is not illegal. Nor is it illegal to say "oh hi there officer" before your hooker friend propositions a cop. That's basically what Uber did.
Not only will you find examples of things like courts finding liability if "a newspaper publishes the name of a witness to a crime, thus making it
easier for the criminal to intimidate or kill the witness" (with no intent on the part of the newspaper)  or "a Web site or a newspaper article names a Web site that contains
copyright-infringing material, or describes it in enough detail that readers could quickly find it using a search engine" , there are also examples more directly relevant to this situation. I think references [19, 37, 38, 39, 40] are most relevant.
: "publish[ing] . . .the residence address or telephone number" of various law enforcement employees "with the intent to obstruct justice" is illegal in many states, including California.
 My reading of United States v. Lane, 514 F.2d 22 (9th Cir. 1975) is that advising people not to sell drugs to a person because you heard something interesting on a police scanner is aiding and abetting a conspiracy. The court said the defendant "could not seriously contend that he was discouraging, rather than aiding and abetting, the commission of the crime" in response to his assertion that "he actually advised against it".
: My reading of United States v. Bucher, 375 F.3d 929 (9th Cir. 2004) is that it is walking down a trail to warn a person whom park rangers intend to arrest is interfering with both the rangers and their official duties (and thus illegal).
Seems more akin to developing a system to screen guests at your hotel - which you insist isn't an illegal brothel and is making good faith attempts to uphold the law - to ensure you're only earning "enhanced room service" commissions from people that aren't investigating whether they might be illegal.
Even if that isn't an offence in itself, it still looks like hard evidence against any claims they might make of intent to comply with the law in various other cases being brought against them.
Which could be obstruction.
If the app told them they were banned, it would be closer to your analogy. But, it shows fake cars circling about that never pick you up. It's actively deceiving law enforcement
first, and most important to this discussion, is that it is definitely deceptive especially when you are going to such extremes as documenting burner mobile phones and preventing their use on the pretense of hiding from regulators.
second, and less important for this discussion, but a business has he right to refuse service to any ONE person for whatever legal reason they choose (whether they specify hat reason or not is a different topic). this should not be confused with deniying service to a GROUP of people for whatever reason they want which is discrimination, and is illegal, whether outline in a TOS or not.
Uber built an infrastructure to be able to systematically detect and obstruct officers in all locations they are operating.
Comparing this with saying "hi officer" is a slight understatement.
While in that case, intent would be be very difficult to prove, it's rather obvious if you spend planning time and resources building a software tool with the express purpose to warn you of officers.
1. They have no obligation to law enforcement to make it easy to catch them. They're making it so that it's harder for LE to use their own service against them. Good investigators wouldn't investigate under their real name, or with their police-union-linked credit card, so it only seems fair.
2. Taxi and municipal transport are easy pandering-demographics for local government, creating monopolies. This isn't Uber vs. competitors, or vs. average citizens, this is Uber vs. the cartels. Everyone, in the long-run, benefits.
I would volunteer to work on that project because its whole point is to evade law enforcement. A lot of us (hackers/technologists) take a pretty dim view of arbitrary State regulations and "laws" and are quite happy to work to evade them. Most people who fit the techno-libertarian or cypherpunk mentality would probably feel the same way.
The mindset you're describing is pretty self-centered and ignorant of how societies work. The law is there to reconcile conflicting interest so that people don't start using violence to pursue their goals. Techno-libertarian teenagers should imagine what would happen if some people they disagree with contracted that libertarian spirit.
Announcing two new startups - Uber Biotech and Uber Medicare. Because what could possibly go wrong from arbitrarily avoiding regulations for the sake of profits.
How could she be so self-centered and... adolescent?
Anti-racism != anarchism.
Their opposition wasn't arbitrary; they knew they could provide a better service outside the monopolistic constraints that were already in place. So they fought those battles and because of those battles, everyone gets to experience a much better ride service than the antiquated taxi system.
While your point could stand in theory, could work with a different company, it's Uber we're talking about! Those guys who keep showing, since day one, that they don't give a flying fuck about people beyond the money they get for them! The company painted itself a pretty consistent image over the years, and it's the image of a smart asshole with too much money to spend.
With Uber/Lyft, I can see when they'll arrive. I can plan to do something with that time if the wait is long enough. I can quickly redirect them to where I am if there's a misunderstanding.
Yes, it's more efficient.
I'm an adult; if I want to enter into an agreement to pay someone else to give me a ride and I'm not harming anyone else, then I will. Fuck their stupid arbitrary laws.
As much as you wouldn't like to admit, they've broken through a market that was once monopolized and the cities had zero interest in doing anything about it.
You now have superior car ride services in part for the work they've done in the market. They have raised the bar.
Remember, people are using Uber. Citizens. Voters. They are voting with their dollar for the superior product. The government's role has become obsolete in the transaction.
It's strange how I need to copy and paste my arguments on this thread, like you know Uber was itself astro-turfing HN right now.
> Civil disobedience is the active, professed refusal to obey certain laws
PROFESSED. To twist that on this on its head, and use another sociopath to excuse it is hilarious. But since you ask: no, that's even MORE reason to not accept this bullshit.
Or perhaps she should just move very slowly when it comes to same sex couples, just never can get the work done. She isn't refusing it just never gets done.
Uber uses deception to shield itself from the consequences of its criminal actions and consolidate wealth for itself. I'm assuming you're not trolling, so think long and hard about your own understanding of society the next time you want to compare MLK to an anarcho-capitalist megacorp.
Uber were also being disobedient in order to get better laws for they and everybody else to abide by.
Better yet - their technique pretty much won. There aren't many cities remaining that still attempt to ban ride sharing.
Consider further; how did the narrative of Uber needing to break the law to disrupt (read: try to overthrow) the existing taxi industry morph into excusing their practices as affecting positive social change? Remember, the context of the boycotts during the American civil rights movement was never to "disrupt" southern businesses.
Uber are more interested in operating in a regulated environment, hence all their lobbying and hence why their first hires in new cities are usually government liaison people.
Uber is equally successful in cities where it was initially thought illegal, in cities where it was always legal and in cities where it became legal.
Many other companies have ridden the coattails of the regulatory work that Uber has done.
If they were an "anarcho-capitalistic" business then they simply wouldn't care for the laws anywhere. They'd be operating in Nevada, Austin and in all of these other cities that have since banned them. They would be signing up drivers with no license or background checks. They wouldn't need any government liaison people. They'd do no lobbying, etc. and as bad as they are - they aren't that company (although many want them to be)
First learn about, and then read some commentaries on the functions and history of the three branches of US government. Then learn about how lobbying works, then read about the various rights movements that've occurred in the US.
They're not a monopoly on ridesharing and because of their efforts converting the hearts and minds of consumers and politicians others can do it too like Juno, Tesla, Lyft, etc.
Your statement applies to literally every company that has lobbyists. You need way more than that to present evidence for your claim.
Again, civil disobedience's core mechanism for gaining the support needed to enact the change it publicly and explicitly advocates for is to accept the consequences of breaking the unjust laws.
I think you are describing anarcho-capitalism, not libertarianism.
FWIW, I consider those terms, along with "voluntaryist" and/or "market anarchist" to be approximately synonymous for all practical purposes.
You act as if they don't already. Society works pretty well anyways.
It is fundamentally unfair to have one segment of society (tech workers) have a different set of rules than the rest. Do you disagree?
You know the danger and you're doing it with your eyes open. They probably didn't know, and i'd bet Uber sacrifices a few engineers just like VW did.
They're way less arbitrary than Uber's action, so that's just projection. You want out of the social contract, be my guest.
A broader point is that its 2017; we have a decent grasp of chaos theory. We know that self regulation in chaotic systems takes the form of hard to predict cycles of extreme variation. We know that stabilizing these systems requires external adjustments to parameters; some dampening here, a little increase there, etc. Personally, I've grown to quite enjoy being a part of an economy that has some measure of stability introduced to it.
That's how it becomes OK for a company to facilitate engineering managers to exert pressure where women either agree to have sex with them or suffer career consequences, using corporate institutions to do so.
Hopefully most people around you don't feel that way -- your immaturity will ultimate catch up to you.
Get a grip. Under any reasonable government Uber would be destroyed tomorrow under the same argument as pirate bay or a torrent tracker - it's conductive to illegality.
Also it's disingenuous to call laws "arbitray". Like them or not, many, if not most laws, are the opposite of arbitrary.
If you worked at Uber, would you work on a feature meant to prevent lyft employee from using the app to poach data about car locations and hailing rides to recruit new lyft drivers? That was supposedly the original reason for this.
Plenty of people do work to keep corporate secrets safe.
IE, Anything is on the table here, it seems (an attitude that can foster creativity certainly). For example, in the end game would Uber's enemies fair badly if they caught a ride in Uber's automatic cars? Indeed, the cars might even be seeking out people for "accidents".
There's reason even the most innovative Mafiosos often don't make it to old age.
"Perverting the course of justice is an offence committed when a person prevents justice from being served on him/herself or on another party. In England and Wales it is a common law offence, carrying a maximum sentence of life imprisonment."
"Whoever knowingly alters, destroys, mutilates, conceals, covers up, falsified, or makes a false entry in any record, document, or tangible object with the intent to impede, obstruct, or influence the investigation or proper administration of any matter within the jurisdiction of any department or agency of the United States or any case filed under Title 11, or in relation to or contemplation of any such matter or case, shall be fined under this title, imprisoned not more than 20 years, or both"
And we're talk systematically evading regulators world-wide. ianola but my legal-fantasy mind could compose for people facing a millennium in prison. I assume the reality would be a slap on wrist if they company's influence falls.
If I am a prostitute working the streets, and a police officer approaches me to offer me money for sex. But I notice he has police officer boots on, and suspect he is a cop. I then tell him I am not looking to offer any services for money. Is that obstruction of justice?
Perhaps the credit card lookups (or other methods) violated privacy laws, but I don't see how refusing service should count as obstruction of justice.
Actually I find this harder to believe than the engineers knowing full well what the system does and doing it anyway. Personally I would never want to work on a system without knowing the value it provides and how it fits into the larger picture.
Does it say something bad about me that I'd be the one jumping up and down to work on this?
It seems really interesting from an analytical perspective and the malicious side of it would leave me very satisfied if it worked. Morality be damned it'd be satisfying.
But using it at scale with drivers and investors at risk? That's crazy.
In Atlas Shrugged, Ragnar typifies law enforcement as it ought to be (in Rand's view)--engaging those who claim authority but resort to violence instead of productivity as a means of controlling wealth.