A report from the New York Times on Sunday detailed that in early 2015, Apple’s CEO Tim Cook threatened to remove Uber from the App Store following news that it had been “fingerprinting” iPhone users.
Uber’s chief executive Travis Kalanick was branded a “risk-taker” by the New York Times who profiled his visit to Apple’s campus for a meeting with Cook to discuss the app. According to Kalanick, Uber was attempting to deter users from creating multiple fake accounts to gain the bonuses given to new account holders. To do this, it had been recording the UUID serial numbers of iPhones so it could identify them even if the app was deleted and reinstalled on the device.
Of course, by doing so, Uber were clearly violating Apple’s app privacy guidelines and even went so far as to geofence the Cupertino Campus so that engineers wouldn’t pick up on the fingerprint behavior.
“Mr. Kalanick told his engineers to “geofence” Apple’s headquarters in Cupertino, Calif., a way to digitally identify people reviewing Uber’s software in a specific location. Uber would then obfuscate its code from people within that geofenced area, essentially drawing a digital lasso around those it wanted to keep in the dark. Apple employees at its headquarters were unable to see Uber’s fingerprinting.”
Soon after Apple engineers discovered Uber’s tactics, Tim Cook summoned Kalanick to demand that these methods stop immediately otherwise it would be removed from the App Store and therefore face a loss of millions of iPhone customers. Kalanick was forced to accede.
This is not the first time that Uber has come under scrutiny. Late last year, concerns were raised when a number of users complained that the app had been tracking them for days or, in some cases, weeks after they had used the service and the company was forced to provide an explanation.