DOJ confirms criminal investigation of Uber in Waymo case

Lloyd Doyle
December 14, 2017

Uber Technologies Inc.'s bad year just got worse with the judge presiding over its case with Waymo unsealing a document that reveals for the first time that the ride-hailing company is now subject to a criminal investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice.

As part of the case, the Justice Department submitted to the judge, William Alsup, the letter that was made public on Wednesday.

The U.S. Attorney's office in San Francisco unsuccessfully tried to keep its letter disclosing the investigation under seal to protect the inquiry's integrity.

In other words, the letter could mean Uber and/or its current or former employees may be under investigation for possible crimes under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, a longstanding anti-hacking law.

The letter was released as part of a legal dispute between Uber and Waymo, a self-driving vehicle developer owned by Google's parent company. Uber has denied Waymo's allegations. Uber fired him in May for refusing to abandon that constitutional right and declining to cooperate with the company's defense against Waymo.

The letter in question, dated November 22, details an investigation into claims that Uber employees had utilized electronic devices separate to Uber's normal network to store and transmit information they did not want on the record and that further, former Chief Executive Officer Travis Kalanick met with now former Otto head Anthony Levandowski "covertly for a long period of time" prior to Uber's acquisition of the self-driving truck company.

The letter revealed that a former Uber security specialist had informed Justice Department investigators that the company had routinely used secret communications channels and devices that could help hide the existence of any technology stolen from a rival.

"In the course of a United States' pending criminal investigation, the government interviewed a former Uber employee named Richard Jacobs", said the letter.

A letter from Jacobs to Uber's general counsel that allegedly contains similar information will be entered into the record Friday, and Alsup has delayed the Waymo-Uber trail into 2018. The judge had already seen enough troubling evidence in the case to reach out to the U.S. Attorney's office in May and recommend it consider opening a criminal case.

A newly-released letter has formally acknowledged what was only briefly stated last month in a San Francisco courtroom: federal prosecutors have an open criminal investigation into Uber.

Alsup plans to unseal Jacobs' letter Friday unless efforts to hide it are successful in an appeals court. The letter didn't explain the reason for the recusal.

Other reports by Iphone Fresh

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