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‘Big Tech games system many times’

Minister of state for IT Rajeev Chandrasekhar — in a tweet on Monday — highlighted how Big Tech companies use loopholes in the regulation to take advantage of the system.

The minister shared a newspaper report, which alleges that Uber expanded its business using cracks in the regulation for ride-sharing platforms.

“I have said many times that Big Tech firms use gaps in laws and rules to game the system and consumers — always using the cover of innovation to fend off scrutiny,” he wrote in a tweet.

Chandrashekhar added that innovation would grow along with a citizen’s right to open a trusted and accountable Internet under the Modi government.

The comments came after the minister stressed on ensuring that the constitutional rights of citizens are not contravened by Big Tech platforms.

Over 124,000 records, including 83,000 emails and 1,000 other files involving conversations from 2013 to 2017 were leaked to The Guardian.

It was then shared with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ), which includes 40 media organisations from various countries.

Meanwhile, the cab-booking platform — in a statement addressing the reports — washed its hands of founder and then chief executive officer (CEO) Travis Kalanick.

“There has been no shortage of reporting on Uber’s mistakes prior to 2017,” Uber said.

It added that the company has gone through an enormous public scrutiny, a number of high-profile lawsuits, multiple government investigations, and the termination of several senior executives.

“We have not and will not make excuses for past behaviour that is clearly not in line with our present values. Instead, we ask the public to judge us by what we’ve done over the last five years and what we will do in the years to come,” Uber said.

In the India context, in one such finding related to a rape incident, which shook the nation, Uber had blamed it on the country’s ‘flawed’ criminal database. It also did not take responsibility for its driver, who was accused of the crime.

That’s not all. Mark MacGann, Uber’s former chief lobbyist in Europe, hit out at Uber’s approach to entering new markets.

Flush with funds, in 2014, the company entered as many as 14 countries, according to the report by ICIJ.

As Uber entered India, Kalanick’s top executive in Asia asked managers to focus on growth, even as “fire starts to burn”, said The Guardian report. “Know this is a normal part of Uber’s business,” he said, adding, “Embrace the chaos. It means you’re doing something meaningful.”

Many times Uber executives were heard saying that they are illegal in many countries.

Nairi Hourdajian, Uber’s head of global communications, put it even more bluntly in a message to a colleague, amid efforts to shut the company down in Thailand and India. She said, “Sometimes we have problems because we’re just illegal,” reported The Guardian.

When it came to the ‘kill switch’, it was used at least 12 times in France, the Netherlands, Belgium, India, Hungary and Romania.

Kill switch was a system to prevent the police and regulators access to any sensitive data during raids on its offices.

The investigative report also alleged that Uber was not implementing the safety features that company had announced after the 2014 New Delhi rape incident.

The panic buttons were not integrated with Delhi Police and state transport department systems.

“Among other things, we have invested heavily in safety and are developing many technologies that are now industry standard. We are publishing a comprehensive report of the most serious safety incidents,” the ride-sharing company said.

Business Journal

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