Waymo vs. Uber: Unsealed Court Documents Reveal Damning Evidence

from The Verge

The due diligence report that Uber fought so hard to keep from being used in its legal battle with Waymo and Alphabet was made public on Monday — and it’s easy to see why Uber resisted as hard as it did. The document, prepared by cybersecurity firm Stroz Friedberg as part of Uber’s acquisition of self-driving trucking startup Otto, describes a thorough forensic review of personal devices belonging to five people at Otto, including the much-embattled Anthony Levandowski, who earlier this year attempted to invoke the Fifth Amendment to avoid turning over documents in the case.

The report paints a picture of executives and lawyers trying to rein in improbably risky behavior at Uber and Otto, two wildly undisciplined companies, even as other top executives egged it on. At this point it’s not terribly surprising that the summary report of the investigation — apparently codenamed “Project Unicorn” by Stroz Friedberg — casts Levandowski and Uber’s then-CEO Travis Kalanick in a particularly bad light. But the report also has damning things to say about Levandowski’s cofounders, Lior Ron and Don Burnette, as well as other employees at Otto, including, of all people, the head of Human Resources.

The report describes, for instance, employees caught in lies in their interviews with Stroz investigators; an elaborate saga around the surreptitious destruction of five disks of confidential information belonging to Google; furtive text messages advising each other to delete message logs; and search engine queries regarding “how to secretly delete files mac” or “can a MacBook be recovered after formatting the OS.”

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7 Responses to Waymo vs. Uber: Unsealed Court Documents Reveal Damning Evidence

  1. Carolyn Wyland October 14, 2017 at 6:24 pm #

    The Waymo vs. Uber case is probably a very expensive litigation process for both sides with having to pay their lawyer costs. I think with Uber having a former employee who stole files from Google does not help their case. When the head of human resources has become a part of a problem that will set the tone for unethical company. Uber trying to stop the records from being released makes Uber look guilty by default. This case along with other recent cases in the news goes to show that most things can be recovered after being deleted.

    Levandowski seems to have caused the legal issues for Uber, which can be traced back to when Uber initially hired him. A company’s hiring process that begins with human resources needs to be thorough and selective. Uber might have known that Levandowski had poor character but wanted his talents and the trade secrets or they were ignorant. It does not matter that circumstances of how Uber hired Levandowski, either way they will be held liable if it is found the company sold/used trade secrets. What can make a difference for a company in legal matters is how serious they take the hiring process. When a company is hiring from another large corporation or a competitor it is important that stolen information is not brought with the employee.

    The records being released as part of the discovery process seems fair and expected. I do not understand what legal standing Uber thought they had with trying to not have the records released. This case demonstrates the importance of the discovery period because both sides having the opportunity to collect all needed evidence. I agree with the evidence being released to the public because Waymo has the right to examine all evidence. This case should also be an example to other companies that no one is above the law, not even multi-billion-dollar companies.

    The Waymo vs. Uber case will most likely end up in business and law classes as a lesson learned, no matter which way the ruling goes. I personally think Uber will have to pay Waymo because the evidence seemed stacked against Uber. Whether it is a civil or criminal litigation one thing is always in common and that is that doing the wrong thing will be uncovered. When companies abide by the law and instill having good morals throughout the company then it will minimize the number of lawsuits on their hands.

  2. Chris O'Handley October 20, 2017 at 8:01 pm #

    This article focuses on the scandal surrounding Anthony Levandowski and his self-driving truck startup company Ottomotto. For the last few years several companies including Google, and Uber have all been working to become the ones who perfect the autonomous car. Levandowski originally was employed by Waymo, the self-driving car service owned by Google. He later left Waymo to start his own self-driving car company called Otto. In August of last year, Uber purchased Otto for $680 million dollars, around seven months after his departure from Waymo. Now this past February Waymo sued Uber specifically targeting Levandowski claiming he stole over fourteen thousand files of information before resigning and going off on his own. As a result, Uber was able to get a running start in beginning their quest to perfect the autonomous car rather than starting from scratch. This saved Otto nearly half a billion dollars that they would have had to spend to come up with and develop the new technology. When filiing their lawsuit, Waymo said “Otto and Uber have taken Waymo’s intellectual property so that they could avoid incurring the risk, time, and expense of independently developing their own technology.” The company also says that several other employees who left Waymo to join Otto stole additional files before they left. When looking at Otto’s design’s, Waymo employees said there was a striking resemblance to their ideas which they had thought had been kept secret. Now these latest revelations in the case make it even easier to believe that everything Waymo has claimed is true. Levandowski and other Uber/Otto employees records show them messaging each other about clearing and deleting all files that could lead back to Waymo. A couple even googled “how to secretly delete a file on mac”. This new evidence poses a pretty striking case against Uber and it is unclear how it will affect the company in the future. Even though it looks bad for them now, there is still no hard evidence that Google’s confidential information ended up in Uber’s hands. The trial has been pushed back so we will have to wait to see the final ruling but it is obvious that if Uber loses they will be set back leaving Waymo alone as the company that is closest to perfecting the autonomous car. This is a huge deal because if all goes how these companies planned, autonomous cars will be the future of transportation and obviously will rake in a ton of money. Knowing that it is easy to see why these companies are willing to spend so much to keep developing new technology. It is also why this case between the two self-driving car powerhouses could be pivotal in determining the future of autonomous cars.

  3. Valerie Dorsett October 27, 2017 at 12:53 pm #

    Have you ever used Uber? Many of us have and even if you did not then you must have heard of Uber before. For those who are not familiar, Uber is a service where you can request a driver to pick you up and drive you to any location. It is a very popular service because if you are somewhere without a car, you can still get around without having a pay a lot of money, unlike a cab. Technology is slowly starting to take part into our lives not only through phones. Many companies, such as Google have been testing self-driving cars. However, there have been some problems.
    Uber is currently in a legal battle with Waymo and Alphabet. The article states that Uber was found to have personal devices that belong to five people who work for Otto. Those disks originally belonged to Google, which has known to be developing self-driving cars for a while now. As the article states, some text messages were advising each other to delete message logs; and search engine queries regarding “how to secretly delete files mac” or “can a MacBook be recovered after formatting the OS.” They were purposely stealing this information for their own benefit and wanted to make sure that they would not get caught. No one is quite sure when they got a hold of this information but if Alphabet does not have any evidence against Uber, than the penalty will be put on Alphabet, which is a parent company of Google.
    Stroz believes that Levandowski was acting during their interview together, by implying that he did not know of how much data was being breached. When Levandowski, CEO of Uber, found out that he had these disks he claimed that he created the disks at Google, but were his. The article quotes that the disks, ‘“source code, design files, laser files, engineering documents, and software related to Google self-driving cars.”’ When he had a meeting with the rest of the Uber company he wanted to keep the disks while others encouraged Levandowski to get rid of them. Instead. He kept them claiming that he would be able to dispose of them later. This seems like enough evidence against Uber. The deleted texts messages and found search history does not lie like how people do.
    To take this a step even further, investigators decided to visit the shredding facility that Levandowski claims that he went to. However, none of the employees working there recognized him. Levandowski claims that he paid in cash, however, the facility says that on every purchase whether it is paid in cash or not. They were able to find one receipt of five disks being destroyed but it was on a different day in March and the signature was not recognizable. Despite all of these investigating, they have not been able to successfully conclude whether or not the disks were actually destroyed or not and if Levandowski was lying. Personally, I am surprised that Uber would try to steal ideas from Google. I use Uber from time to time and believe that they are a very good business wise. However, this is pretty good evidence against them. Stealing information from other businesses is illegal and should be punished. If you want to develop your own self-driving cars you should find good people to develop your own strategies. Stealing work from Google, a powerful business will never be completely perfect, like with the texts messages. In the end do the right thing because you will be caught.

  4. Shiyun Ye October 27, 2017 at 8:12 pm #

    As a common application nowadays, Uber is under spotlights for many problems. The article above discussed how the executives in Uber executing unethical behaviors while trying their best to cover them up. It is well known that invading in another company’s information is highly unethical so when Uber’s executives are being suspected to undergo one of them, it is easy to assume that they will say no. However, the report shows so many devastating evidences that contradicted with what they claim. Therefore, the issue raised up in another level: is Fifth Amendment works in this case as well?
    First, Google and Uber are two corporations instead of two individuals. Fifth Amendment protects people’s rights including right to speak, privacy, etc. In this case, Uber’s executives enjoy the rights of privacy but under investigating, they should corporate with the investigators so their right of privacy is not protected in this specific case. On the other hand, Uber’s executive do have the right to speak but their speech is highly contradicted with what the report showed.
    From Google’s perspective, Executives of Uber clearly invades its right of privacy by taking its confidential information. Moreover, with the right to speak, it can ask the court or investigator to inspect more details about the Uber’s deleted messages. Therefore, Google should be the company defending itself with the Fifth Amendment instead of Uber.
    This case also reminds us how dangerous in modern world that everyone actually has an access to your digital files no matter it is deleted or not. For example, in the article, the report describes employees caught in lies in their interviews with Stroz investigator and elaborate saga around the surreptitious destruction of five disks of confidential information belonging to Google. Moreover, furtive text messages advising each other to delete message logs; and search engine queries regarding “how to secretly delete files mac” or “can a MacBook be recovered after formatting the OS.” These are supposed to be confidential web history but with a little bit of effort on investigating, these data are easily found. Another incidents happened recently which is about one of the United States biggest data store company Equifax gets infringed demonstrated how devastating the invading of privacy can be. Almost every citizen of United State’s personal information is leaked and it increases the risk of identification theft and financial fraud. Due to this reason, many arguments are raised regarding to how to protect the information online no matter it is related to business or personal information. Personally, if I will be working in a company, I will not save my confidential data or organization’s file in a public computer even it belongs to the corporation. Moreover, I will keep this confidential information into different channels with different portions so that even someone finds out the password; he or she cannot get the full version of the information. In the end, it is very important to keep yourself safe online, especially when you are working for a company.

  5. Jimmy Bedoya October 30, 2017 at 1:37 am #

    Waymo is a car development company that was originally a part of the entire organization responsible for Google, known as Alphabet Incorporated. Continuing what Google has initially started, Waymo sought to continue the formulation of a car that could drive on its own. As described by Alphabet Inc., Waymo is a self-driving tech company designed to make it safe and efficient for people and things to travel. Self-driving technology companies are one of the many revolutionary innovations of artificial intelligence. Artificial Intelligence is a subject in which technological devices and inventions can work with a mind of their own based on trial and error. Meaning that these technological advancements will be able to function of the sheer capability of recording every possible outcome and learning from every mistake made. Through long-time automotive executive John Krafcik, Waymo’s mission is clear and admirable; make self-driving cars available to the public.

    Though the creation of these companies is revolutionary and proves as well needed by the world, the market for artificial intelligence is starting to be difficult and hypercompetitive. The market consists of a variety of companies such as Uber, nuTonomy, Tesla, Honda, Waymo, and a few others. With competition can sometimes arise the obsession of competitors needing to ensure their companies are successful no matter the cost. With that being said, the obsession can sometimes lead an individual to take action in illegal affairs as a result of possible despair. Despite the possibilities, however, if a company decides to act illegally it is important to understand that the truth will arise eventually. In the case of Waymo V. Uber, Waymo sued Uber due to the belief that Uber was using Waymo’s trade secrets in Uber’s own self-driving car technology. Attorneys for Waymo are claiming that Anthony Lewandoski, a previous employee for Google, illegally downloaded more than 14,000 files of secret information right before he left his job. After leaving, Lewandoski started his company named Otto and sold it to Uber in 2016 for $680 million. Uber later denied the accusation of them robbing and using Waymo’s trade secrets to their own advantage. However, with a recent release of vital evidence that Uber did, in fact, use these trade secrets, Uber could be facing the possibility of having to compensate for the theft committed and/or having to stop Uber’s significant and detrimental efforts of self-driving vehicles.

    In my opinion, when such an accusation is made about a company, it is important to understand the importance of whether or not such speculation can be proven. See the possibility in which Uber could actually have thought of the process and not stolen the information at all could, in fact, have been the case. But as a result of discovered evidence that states Uber deleted such files and wrote about it through text, the possibility of their authenticity is rejected. There is no doubt that Uber did, in fact, steal the files, used the files for the benefit of their company, and then tried to destroy the stolen files. It seems as though Uber’s obsession for success caused them to buy the information and using it for their own benefit. Uber could have easily rejected such an offer to avoid conflict or if they claimed to not know about Lewandoski’s intentions, Uber could have checked to see how exactly he performed for Google. Thus, I believe it is only right if Uber suffers the consequences and is forced to both compensate for the stolen secret evidence and stop their works of self-driving cars until they find a new strategy.

  6. Nicholas Kerins October 30, 2017 at 9:43 pm #

    Uber which revolutionized the transportation industry with its ride sharing idea, has had a difficult run as late. It started with allegations that Uber drivers were being inappropriate to customers with the way they spoke and made advances against their passengers. Following this was internal turmoil with the CEO and his decision making which ultimately lead to him stepping down. Uber remains the largest ride sharing company narrowly beating out competition in Lyft. But Uber is not out of the woods yet as their latest lawsuit involving their acquisition of Otto a self-driving truck company. The article “Waymo vs. Uber: unsealed court documents reveal damning evidence” covers the revelation of new damaging evidence in the Waymo versus Uber case.
    Waymo is suing Uber because they believe Uber stole patented technology that Waymo uses for its self-driving cars. Recently Uber has tried to spread its span of service into the self-driving cars. To do this, they acquired Otto who specializes in self-driving trucks. Where the lawsuit came about was when Waymo claimed some of Ubers new employees were illegally recruited from Waymo and google and brought with them patented information. The article explains how high-level Uber employees were caught with deleted text messages and a scan disk with the alleged information on it. This is unsurprising, there has been evidence in the past on Uber’s undisciplined actions when it comes to very high-level officials in their company. But overall for the cooperate world it isn’t surprising either. Corrupt business practices have plagued business done all over the world. Uber like many before them will stop at nothing to gain a competitive edge in what people think to be the next big industry, self-driving cars. Personally, I think that this industry will not blossom into what many people believe it will be. It will take a lot for drivers to give up this control to an AI. The new laws that will need to be enacted for insurance and car accident’s will make self-driving cars becoming a reality even more far off. Especially if we have more cases like the Waymo versus Uber. I already feel nervous to have a self-driving car transport me if companies feel the need to steal software and plans instead of creating their own. It’s an amazing technological advance that we are seeing being developed in this generation but will it work out personally I do not think so.

  7. Vincent Scorese December 8, 2017 at 11:00 pm #

    This is not very surprising given the track record of executives at uber and the fact that they have been in the limelight several times this year and very few of those were for good reasons and is leading to a lot of miss trust and confusion surrounding uber and its future endeavors. Although their one-time CEO who was involved in many shady business practices, the new CEO is trying to right the ship and right the wrongs in the past. He is quoted saying “
    He admitted that it really matters what people think of the company. So, going forward, he said it’s critical “to act with integrity in everything” the company does and to learn how to be better partner to every city where it’s active. By doing so, he hopes to show that Uber isn’t just a “really great product, but a really great company that is meaningfully contributing to society.”

    Uber is caught in this article with a company called Otto in the attempts to make the first self-driven car and be better at it than the company who is a rival in that space, Google. Many workers at Otto were former google coders and worked closely with the project of making a self-driven car. This case was major when the file was public because it showed that 5 confidential disks of google information pertaining to the codes were apparently destroyed in the process but there is no actual evidence of it and there is still a major question mark on the whereabouts if they exist at all still. The investigators cannot determine a concrete outcome yet but be assured if they can’t find something the other company involved against uber, waymo will try to.

    It is both sad and crazy that there is so much dishonesty in not only the world we live in but particularly in the business world where the upholding of integrity apparently doesn’t exist much within these companies. Greed is the overcoming emotion that seems to get in the way and blinds those who may have steered straight their entire lives into scenarios and situations that may lead to a life of questioning and a legacy with an asterisk next to it forever.


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