Lyft Accuses Uber of Witch Hunt

Early in 2015, Uber filed a civil lawsuit in San Francisco federal court against Lyft — both companies offer driving services from non-employee contractors. Their stated purpose was to bring into the open information about the May 2014 hack of their computer systems resulting in as many as 50,000 drivers’ data being vulnerable, including their license numbers and names.

In 2014, Uber found someone had accessed and downloaded its driver database. That information should have only been available using a digital security key. A copy of that key information was found on GitHub, a code-development site, where it was left by mistake.

But this last week Lyft requested the judge to stop Uber from making more demands for information, claiming Uber is using the lawsuit “to conduct its own witch-hunt” and “to dig into its competitor’s internal, confidential, and trade-secret information.” Lyft’s requests were made in a related class action lawsuit brought by an unnamed Uber driver over the breach of computer information at Uber. Uber has requested information regarding a Lyft employee whose Comcast IP address had access to the security information used in the breach. But that IP address, belonging to Chris Lambert, Lyft’s technology chief, was not used in the breach. And Lyft claims they have not found any evidence of any Lyft employee being part of the attack.

As is common in such cases, Uber threw a wide net and requested the employee to produce information including communications the person had with any Uber drivers and passengers, their web browsing activity about the time the hack occurred, and any documents regarding “any scraped, crawled, spidered, copied, downloaded or otherwise accessed from Uber’s computers, servers, or services.”

The court case along with a lot of bad publicity for Uber recently leaves this emerging type of business in question. But Uber has found itself in court and other government meetings from their inception. They’ve cut their teeth on rules, regulations, and how to focus attention to help them move forward. It’s possible that Lyft may not have the legal chutzpah to win the suit, but they’re not giving up easily. Blocking Uber from legal access to their files — digital and otherwise — is a smart move legally. The question left, is it a good PR move?

Jonah Engler is an entrepreneur who hails from NYC.