In May 2015 about 10 examiners for the Quebec tax authority burst into Uber Technology Inc .‘s office in Montreal. The authorities believed Uber had violated tax laws and had a warrant to collect evidence. Directors on-site knew what to do, say people with knowledge of the event.
Like managers at Uber’s hundreds of offices abroad, they’d been training to page a number that alerted specially trained the staff members of company headquarters in San Francisco. When the call came in, staffers rapidly remotely logged off every computer in the Montreal office, inducing it practically impossible for the authorities to retrieve the company records they’d secured a warrant to accumulate. The researchers left without any evidence.
Most tech corporations don’t expect police to regularly raid their offices, but Uber isn’t most corporations. The ride-hailing startup’s reputation for flouting local labor statutes and taxi rules has made it a favorite target for enforcement agencies around the world. That’s where this remote system, called Ripley, comes in. From spring 2015 until late 2016, Uber routinely applied Ripley to thwart police raids in foreign countries, say three people with knowledge of the system. Allusions to its nature can be found in a smattering of court filings, but its details, scope, and origin haven’t been previously reported.