By Kieren McCarthy
An Uber employee has been arrested for allegedly obstructing a police raid in Amsterdam in the Netherlands earlier on Thursday.
The taxi-booking app is illegal in Euro nation – but the company behind the software has been running the service regardless, earning the ire of not only cabbies but also the authorities.
Last week, Uber’s Amsterdam base was inspected by officials from the Ministry of Transport looking for evidence of the use of the startup’s UberPop app, deemed unlawful by a Dutch court last year.
The inspectors returned with the plod, in search of extra paperwork. Although the swoop was described by Uber as a “visit”, the Dutch authorities said “the company wasn’t cooperating during the raid, so one employee has been arrested.”
The UberPop app works in much the same way as the Uber app in other cities: it lets individuals use their private cars to pick up passengers and charge them fees to drive them to a location of their choice. In other words, act like a taxi. Except the fees are cheaper than that charged by real taxis, causing consternation.
Taxis are strictly regulated in the Netherlands, and as a result a court found the service was illegal and levied a €10,000 ($11,000) fine for each violation. It found 27 violations, but the San Francisco-headquartered company was fined €100,000 due to a fine threshold. Uber has appealed the decision, and continues to run its banned service while that appeal is pending.
This approach has not sat well with the Dutch authorities, resulting in the raid that appears to be focused on identifying the number of drivers and the number of trips carried out since the court judgment was handed down.
Least of their troubles?
It’s not just financial troubles the company is facing however. Dutch taxi drivers are aggressively chasing down Uber drivers in the streets.
As citizen-journalist website Watchdog detailed recently, the taxi-hailing service has become almost clandestine. “Act like we know each other,” the publication quoted one Uber driver telling a reporter who had booked a ride – something it noted usually comes out the mouth of a drug dealer.
Uber is having trouble across the US and the world, having been banned in American states and entire countries. It is fighting back in the courts in each case, most recently appealing decisions in France, Belgium and Germany.
In response, the authorities have raided several of the companies’ headquarters, and cabbies have reportedly taken the law into their own hands on numerous occasions, including trashing the company’s headquarters in London.
To add to the upstart’s woes, it has been losing a public relations war over the past year thanks to repeated incidents that highlight its “tech bro” culture – including one occasion when an Uber exec threatened to leak the private details of a reporter who had called out the company’s internal sexism. The company also published blog posts that showed it was using its clients logs to track things like prostitution and one-night stands.
Most recently, the company has come under fire for being less than upfront about a number of security issues. It discovered that its driver database had been hacked last year, but took five months to reveal that fact to the affected drivers, and only after it had filed a lawsuit in order to subpoena code repository GitHub to hand over the details of whoever read a Gist post containing a database’s secret access key.
Uber has also denied its user database was hacked after the usernames and passwords of some Uber passengers were sold online – suggesting the details were obtained by phishing attacks or similar. Today, the company announced it was hiring its first Chief Security Officer. Joe Sullivan joins the biz, currently valued at $40bn, from his job as chief security officer at Facebook. THEREGISTER