Uber’s global triumph is almost unstoppable. There are only a few cities in the world where you can’t organize a ride within minutes using a practical smartphone app. Meanwhile, with Uber One, even the company’s own subscription model has found its way into Europe. But with the Uber Files, the company from the USA has now been given a negative coat of paint. Thus mountainous files prove that the success story of Uber was written particularly in Europe with partly questionable methods. It is not only the role of the U.S. company that needs to be questioned. Politics has also behaved here in part highly dubious.
Tens of thousands of documents give insight into methods of Uber
Uber is unlikely to forget this data leak in a hurry. The so-called Uber files that came to light in the process are made up of tens of thousands of documents that not only concern the ride service provider itself, but also its cooperation partners. These include not only “simple” members of parliament such as Otto Fricke of the FDP. The current president of France, Emmanuel Macron, also appears in the papers. Even EU politicians like Neelie Kroes, who was a member of the EU Commission, can be found in the Uber Files. The whole thing was uncovered by a group of globally active investigative journalists. In their report, they refer to a data package that was sent to the British newspaper The Guardian.
In Germany, the Süddeutsche Zeitung published the explosive contents of the data package. In addition to exciting presentations and invoices from the company, it is the actions of politicians that are now causing a stir. In particular, former EU Commissioner Kroes is said to have shown an astonishingly high level of commitment to giving Uber the best possible start in Europe. This gets a stale taste at the latest when one recalls the lobbying ban that actually applied to her at the time. France’s President Macron, on the other hand, came into contact with Uber, as he was Minister of the Economy at the company’s European launch in France. In his office, he too lobbied hard for the U.S. company, according to the Uber Files.
124,000 files from four years
The now published dataset includes 124,000 files, which concern the years between 2013 and 2017. Here we can get piquant insights into the actions of Uber. In the process, immense amounts of money also emerge from the writings. According to the Uber Files, Uber is said to have paid 90 million US dollars for its lobbying work. By comparison, the IT industry pays 97 million euros annually to the EU. Here, one can definitely speak of extensive influence exerted by the company. Not only the financial means, but also the procedure emerges from the Uber Files. Thus, employees of the group are said to have met with high-ranking politicians to present their own company model.
Former EU commissioner moved to Uber
Particularly piquant is the fact that the then EU Commissioner Neelie Kroes is probably more closely associated with Uber than any other EU politician. Not only is she said to have brokered meetings between the U.S. company and high-ranking politicians during her active time in the Commission. On top of that, in 2014 she asked to be allowed to work for Uber. However, she was prohibited from doing so due to the lobbying ban. After the ban expired, however, the politician switched to the ride-hailing service after all.
In view of a hefty annual salary of 200,000 US dollars, one can become skeptical. The influence of Macron, the French Minister of Economy at the time, is also dubious, to say the least. After Uber asked the high-ranking politician for a request, he probably had restrictions on the ride service in Marseille eased without further ado. However, this is only conjecture.
Uber sabotaged investigations
For the relevant investigative authorities, the Uber Files are a real gold find. After all, they confirm what has long been suspected within the authorities. Accordingly, Uber made use of so-called “kill switches”. This software ensures that computers can only be examined under more difficult conditions. We are curious to see what waves the Uber files will now make. After all, it’s not just the U.S. company that has to fear serious consequences. The role of the cooperating politicians is also anything but radiant. This is another vivid illustration of the influence that some companies can have on politics.