Vox's Matt Yglesias argues that Uber—where an executive suggested to a Buzzfeed reporter that "the company should consider hiring a team of opposition researchers to dig up dirt on its critics in the media"—has "an asshole problem."
Users really are entrusting the company with a lot of personal information about their comings and goings. If Uber wants to play a broader role in customers' lives, the volume of data available to the company will grow even further. Privacy concerns are nothing new in the digital economy. But serious players try to take them seriously. If executives from Google even suggested for a minute that the company might use its trove of data to blackmail enemies, the whole enterprise would be at risk of regulatory vaporization — and rightly so.
The vision of free entry into the rides-for-hire market is appealing, and it took a certain devil-may-care attitude to get it off the ground. But it is off the ground now. Uber is a major company. And it's time to start acting like it. Not all rules are made to be broken.
Insofar as it's considered spying on an oppositional journalist, Uber is acting exactly like a major company. Like, say, Hewlett-Packard:
HP has now admitted to spying on its own directors' personal phone records in order to root out a leaker. It did so by using private investigators who engaged in "pretexting"—calling up phone companies and impersonating directors seeking their own records. HP late last week additionally admitted to spying on the phone records of nine journalists, including at The New York Times and Wall Street Journal, some of which date to 2005.
Federal investigators are looking into the actions of a computer systems technician at Wal-Mart Stores who, over a period of several months, intercepted pager and text messages and also secretly taped telephone conversations between Wal-Mart employees and a reporter for The New York Times, the company said yesterday.
Or Fox News.
Cook said that his source, whose name he did not want to appear in this article, divulged that Ailes had commissioned someone (or some people) to tail Cook, and that they had reported back to Ailes on his whereabouts. Cook said this person had first-hand knowledge of the situation and he provided related text messages to Capital documenting that this conversation took place.
Why limit ourselves to the U.S.? Deutsche Telekom is unquestionably a major company:
The only way Uber has failed to "act like" a "major company" is by getting caught. (See also: Whisper.) If Uber has an "asshole problem," so does all of capitalism.