Thursday, December 15, 2016

Uber whistleblower says company erased data during raid on Montreal offices



Montreal

Uber whistleblower says company erased data during raid on Montreal offices

Lawsuit alleges 'Uber would lock down the office and immediately cut all connectivity'


Samuel Spangenberg says he helped Uber remotely erase data on computers during Revenu Québec raids of the company's Montreal offices in May 2015. (Sean Henry/CBC )
A former security employee at Uber says he was part of an "incident response team" that helped remotely erase data when Revenu Québec raided the company's Montreal offices last year.

Samuel Spangenberg worked as a forensic investigator for Uber at the company's head office in San Francisco for 11 months in 2015.

He made the allegation in a sworn statement in October as part of a wrongful dismissal lawsuit filed in the Superior Court of the state of California.

In the statement, Spangenberg mentioned Revenu Québec's raid on Uber's Montreal offices in May 2015.

After that raid, Revenu Québec alleged that Uber had remotely erased data on the office's computers as soon as the raid began.

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Spangenberg said in his statement that's exactly what happened, and that he helped do it.

'Cut all connectivity'

Spangenberg's statement said it was standard practice at Uber during police or government raids to "lock down the office and immediately cut all connectivity so that law enforcement could not access Uber's information."

"I would then be tasked with purchasing all new equipment for the office within the day, which I did when Uber's Montreal office was raided," Spangenberg said.

Spangenberg said that after such raids, data was often subject to "litigation holds" by law enforcement.

He said Uber "routinely deleted files which were subject to litigation holds," a practice which he said he objected to.

'Attempt to obstruct justice'

Revenu Québec has always maintained that Uber tried to block access and delete information during its raid, something that Spangenberg's statement now backs up.

Superior court judge Guy Cournoyer wrote that Uber's conduct during May 2015 raids 'had all the characteristics of an attempt to obstruct justice'. (Ryan Remiorz/The Canadian Press)
After the raid, Uber tried to challenge the validity of Revenu Québec's search warrants in Quebec superior court.

During that proceeding, Revenu Québec investigators told a judge that on the the day of the raid, smartphones and laptops seized appeared to have been remotely restarted and that data they were looking for was then encrypted from the company's head office in San Francisco.

In a decision released in May upholding Revenu Québec's warrants, Superior court judge Guy Cournoyer wrote that Uber's conduct "had all the characteristics of an attempt to obstruct justice."

Uber tried to appeal Cournoyer's decision in the Quebec court of appeal. The court refused to hear the case. Uber is now trying to have its appeal heard in the Supreme Court of Canada.

Uber denies 'each and every allegation'

Uber fired Spangenberg in February.  

He has filed a lawsuit in California alleging he was fired based on age discrimination and whistleblower retaliation.  

Court documents said that Uber told Spangenberg he was being fired because he violated the company's code of conduct when he reformatted his company laptop.

In court documents filed in May, Uber said it "generally denies each and every allegation contained in the plaintiff's complaint."

On Wednesday, Uber Canada spokesman Jean-Christophe de Le Rue reaffirmed that denial in a written statement to CBC News.

"We have always said and want to reaffirm that no information has been deleted," he said.

"Following the agreement reached this summer with Revenu Québec, we continue collaborating with them on matters related to our operations in Quebec."

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