Saturday, December 09, 2017

Uber London : Uber heads to court to appeal London ban

Well, we finally got here. It was feared within certain sectors of the trade, from the way the Mayor was talking, that Uber's licence would be granted before this issue made it to court. 

Uber head to court on Monday, to fight Transport for London's refusal to relicense their London operation siting safety issues which they make the company unfit to be a private hire operator.

This kicks off the first of two crucial legal battles over the next fortnight.

The Instant eHailing app is appealing Transport for London's decision not to relicense when their current licence ran out in September. A move that was ineffective in banning Uber from the capital. The company is still being allowed to continue to operate while on appeal.  

This first appeal comes ahead of a critical decision at Europe’s highest court on Wednesday week, that will determine its regulatory future in Europe. The European Court of Justice (ECJ) will decide whether Uber should qualify as a technology or transport company, a decision that may see it bound to strict local taxi regulations.

The company is facing a series of legal battles and government investigations around the world, and is fighting to restore its reputation after a disastrous year that has seen its founder Travis Kalanick forced to step down as chief executive. 

Its valuation is also under pressure as the Japanese giant SoftBank seeks to buy shares from insiders at a much lower price than its $70bn (£52bn) valuation suggests.

Last week it faced a new UK blow when its licence in Sheffield was revoked for allegedly failing to answer questions about its management. 

Uber put the ban down to an administrative error, saying the council had sent letters to the wrong address. Uber believe they are a law unto themselves saying it's easier to seek forgiveness than permission. 

Friday, December 08, 2017

Christmas Appeal : Sean Stockings Stripped Of Licence, Uber To Carry On Regardless.

Sean Stockings is married and has two children:
Since tfl revoked his licence he has not worked for 7 months.

His only crime....he video'd TfL Commissioner and Director having a meal in public sight, on the street...a public place. There were no criminal charges.

What Christmas do you think he's going to have this year?

If you want to donate £5-10 to him, just call the office on 020 7394 5553 

And we can take a CC payment and send it into his bank account today . Thank you

On the other hand we have Uber.
Five years of #UberDriverRape with an increase of 50% this year. Customer's details hacked and sold in bulk on the dark web. Escalating road traffic accident....vehicles working without insurance....drivers lending their vehicles and uber accounts to 'friends'.

• Thousands of young lives have been shattered by UberRape and serious sexual assaults!
• Uber System Breached By Hackers!
• Uber tries to cover up system hack!
• Customers account details sold on the dark web! 
• Customers billed for journeys they allege never happened!
• There have also been a number of avoidable deaths!
• Uber, finally found by TfL to be not fit and proper to hold an operators licence.

And yet their drivers have been allowed to carry on working as if nothing's happened. 

Thursday, December 07, 2017

Remote Hiring, Cross Boarder Hiring, Deregulation And The Six Departments.. By Lee Ward.

Firstly, I should introduce myself.
My name is Lee Ward and I have worked in the Taxi & Private Hire industry for the last 22 years covering just about every role related to it, ‘telephonist, radio operator, manager, owner and also as a driver. I am now the chairman for a drivers’ association based in Sheffield known as ALPHA.
Like many people who will read this document, I have seen the trade change, or perhaps evolve, a great deal over the past two decades, some changes for the benefit of the industry and some to its detriment.
The current state of affairs that we all face is now of a significant level that we have the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Taxis, the Communities and Local Government Committee, and the Task and Finish Group on Taxi and Private Hire Licensing. Plus, we have the Institute of Licensing, the Local Government Association and the Department for Transport.

Six departments, all wishing to put the industry to rights, all with their own ideas and perhaps even agendas, but to my knowledge none of them talking to each other let alone the industry and the people who actually know, understand and work in it.
The industry has always had a fine balance between both tiers, that of the Taxi and the Private Hire, it always had a ‘them and us’ aura to it, but the two tiers lived side by side in a status quo in what could be described as a finely balanced eco system.
Then things changed, some of it due to the negligence of a small minority of authorities, some by deregulation and some by technology.
Remote Licensing is where authorities licensed vehicles knowing full well that they would not work in the area to which that authority enforced.
Deregulation opened the borders, leaving an intended loophole that benefits the owner of a company, but not the authority or the self-employed drivers.
Cross Border hiring where drivers licensed in one area work predominantly in another.
These are the three issues that the six groups mentioned above should challenge, although I am aware that other subjects have been thrown into the mix such as mandatory CCTV in all vehicles with which I agree in principal but not as it is being sold. CCTV does not make a driver ‘fit and proper’ and it should not be sold on the basis of what happened in Rotherham: it seems that unfortunate issue is being used as a catch-all to pass any new policy up and down the country.
I wish to break down the three issues that the trade faces, and perhaps give my opinion on how these could be addressed to solve these issues nationwide while at the same time keep the spirit and the intention of what the Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1976 meant, because I truly believe that the intention of this Act stands today.

Remote Licensing
Remote licensing has developed from authorities licensing both drivers and vehicles to operate outside that authority’s area.
This was first born by the case of Newcastle v Berwick upon Tweed (2008) where Newcastle was concerned that Berwick were issuing Hackney licences to drivers who had no intention to work within Berwick but worked in predominantly if not solely in Newcastle as Private Hire Vehicles. In the court case the Judge agreed that the issuing authority had a due care to enforce the vehicle while working and by being out of area removed the practical enforcement.
Once this case was made public, drivers sought other authorities where they could be granted a Hackney licence with ease, to then work in the area that they lived, therefore circumventing the local requirements and conditions.
Technology has brought this one step further, because no longer is a Hackney licence required, a Private Hire licence can also do the same, which is to circumvent the authority’s requirements by remote licensing.
Before technology progressed, the main reason that drivers worked ‘locally’ was that the communication between a base and a vehicle could only travel a certain distance. While computers assisted in the speed of the distribution of work, the advent of the industry utilising mobile communications the same as the public use for mobile phones, increased the distance of communication between the base and the vehicle to an infinite distance.
The result of this is that a vehicle licensed in one area can sit in another many miles away and wait for bookings to come to them. This is great news for the owner of a company who can now spread its business model far and wide with greater income generated by all the extra drivers who pay for renting the equipment from them, but not for the drivers licensed locally who have undertaken and passed the requirements necessary to work in that area including the vehicle criteria. This also has an issue for the authority in that area to regulate the industry. This leaves one authority receiving the income while another deals with issues.
It is my belief that the LGMPA 1976 intended that each area had Operators, Drivers and Vehicles working in that area and not working anywhere they chose.
Argument has been that it does not state in the Act that drivers have to be in their own area to receive a booking before setting off to complete the request, but it does not state that they do not have to be either.
What is does state, is that each area can set its own conditions that are reasonable, so a driver who is licensed in one area and working in another is not in fact working in that area under conditions as the authority deemed to be reasonable, therefore not legally working in that area.
A test case is not necessary to resolve this if all authorities agree to the basics of what is explained. It can simply be put to the six groups who are working to solve the issues of the trade for them to take forward. Technology changed the borders, not the intention of the 76 Act.
I think, and believe that an intended use policy on vehicles would solve this issue regardless of it involving cities and or rural areas.
Most drivers circumvent the local requirements because the tests needed to pass in another area are much easier, therefore I strongly suggest that each area adopts the following requirements as a standard for the trade. The vehicle is simply the tool that is used to conduct business and can be kept to each area’s needs and economic requirements.
Driver requirements should be as follows:
o Enhanced DBS check
o Driving Standards test
o Local knowledge test
o NVQ or BTEC Professional Taxi & Private Hire Driver Qualification
o Group 2 Medical
o Proof of eligibility to work within the UK
o English Language Test to level CEFR C1 minimum
o Maths Test to level OCR Functional Skills minimum
Vehicle requirements should all have:
• Intended use policy
Deregulation Act

The Deregulation Act 2015 is probably one of the most bizarre and unfathomable Acts to ever have been brought to force. It totally undermined the local authority’s ability to control the vehicles operating within their area while at the same time, by the use of technology, saturate areas with drivers from elsewhere.
If we are all honest about the Taxi and PHV clauses in this Act, they were rushed in and pushed through for the benefit of the owners of large companies to expand at the expense of the Private Hire drivers who are trying to earn a living.
These Private Hire drivers have overheads that are by far greater in percentage of takings than many other self-employed individuals, but require an operator to earn those takings and of course a living.
Again, I will break down this Act and what it achieved, or aimed to achieve.
The Act raised the duration of licences for drivers to three years.
It raised the Operators’ licences to five years.
Each license is based on proving that the person is ‘fit and proper’ so why is an operator deemed less likely to not be fit and proper and therefore allowed a five-year licence when an Operator could break the law and subsequently every driver working for them also be breaking the law unknowingly. No, I cannot understand that myself either, unless of course it was operators who had the MP’s ear that suggested this when it was pushed into the Bill with little or no consultation. But then again, that would explain the next part of the Deregulation Act and that is sub-contracting.
Before this Act, it was legal for a company to take a booking and if sub-contract it to another company within the same authority. This was and still is common practice; a company takes a booking and for any reason does not have a vehicle available to complete that booking as contractually obliged to do, they ask another company if they are able to cover it, ensuring the customer is satisfied and taken to their destination as requested.
What this Act did, was allow a company in one area to sub-contract a booking to a company in another area, which is fine, apart from a loophole that has emerged, or made.
To explain this loophole, I will use two imaginary areas as reference, those being Narnia and Lilliput.

A customer requests a vehicle to collect them from the city centre of Narnia from a Narnia licensed Operator that trades under the name of All Carz. The Operator All Carz also has an Operator’s licence in Lilliput.
The vehicle that is first in the queue to receive a booking in the city centre of Narnia is in fact a vehicle and driver licensed by Lilliput who is sat next to a driver working for All Carz who is licensed by Narnia.
With the magic of technology the booking that was accepted by All Carz of Narnia is put into the computer and the computer recognises that a vehicle from Lilliput is the first vehicle in the city centre and therefore diverts (sub-contracts) that booking to City Carz in Lilliput to despatch the Lilliput vehicle sat in Narnia’s City centre, leaving the Narnia vehicle sat waiting for a booking.
We know that a recent case regarding the iCabbi system, the judge declared that nothing was illegal with this action, but if we are all honest with each other, this was never a sub-contracted booking as the Deregulation Act suggested, it was a simple loophole exploited because the people who write these updates simply do not know the industry and the way it works.
The real intention of the Deregulation Act or at least should have been, is that a customer can call its local company when the customer was out of area to trust that company in sourcing a legitimate operator to complete the journey that the customer requested when the customer was not in their local area. Or, a resident of Narnia while staying in Lilliput could call the Narnia Company that they trusted to sub-contract the request to a Lilliput company that the Narnia Company worked closely with. Easy, straight forward and understood by the public.
The Deregulation Act is actually a very apt name, because this Act has actually taken the industry back to pre-1976 when Private Hire was not regulated.
Cross Border Hiring
Cross border hiring had an urban myth surrounding it, and that was if the customer was in another licensing area then the company could not take the booking unless it was coming back into that company’s licensing area. The truth is, that if the request stayed out of area then it was not financially viable to send a vehicle to complete the request.
Of course, another factor that supported this was communication between the company and the vehicle due to radio signals, but technology changed that.
Cross border hiring is in fact a valuable part of the industry, most importantly in rural areas where a company can be based closer to a town, village or railway station in another district than the nearest company licensed in that district, therefore being the physically nearest and most efficient service to that location. This is something that has to be taken seriouslywhen and if all this is actually discussed and rectified for the trade to stabilise again.
The issue with Cross Border hiring is the combination of Remote Licensing and Deregulation.
Cross Border hiring can be beneficial to the public in the right area and the correct conditions such as more rural areas, however in cities it is perhaps the most talked about, frustrating and volatile situation that the trade has.
For a driver to be licensed in Lilliput and work all day, week, month or year in Narnia is a blatant circumvention of local conditions and authority, and that’s what is killing this trade today, a trade that has for many years served the public well and safely.
Cross Border hiring is not the real issue, it is how those drivers work across the border that is the issue, and that truly is for the safety of the public and the chance of prosperity for the driver.
I trust that anyone who is still reading has a true sense of care and due diligence for this trade, and I thank you for your time.
What this industry needs from the six groups is a show of unity from the authorities’ officers, its councillors on the committees that oversee each local authority and its drivers, and the MP’s who represent each area, regardless of the party that they are associated with this is after all for the safety of the public across the land.
Show your support in what I have put forward, ask for a group to be formed that is a single group with a single goal, bringing the knowledge and experience of the trade to combine with the knowledge and experience of the law makers to finally complete what is required of this trades’ regulation to continue to provide a safe and secure network of transport for the public.
Could every person in the Licensing department, the councillors that are on the committee for licensing and any MP that wishes to support this document, please fill in the details below (this is the only editable part of the document) and return to as an individual email from each person who signs in support.
Full Name:​
Position within Council:​
Licensing Authority:​
Signature (email):​
Where possible an electronic
signature would be best
I thank you all for your time and support in this matter, andtrust it has not been wasted.
Lee Ward
Chairman ALPHA

Sunday, December 03, 2017

Uber, But For Toxic Techbro Culture ..... Simply, A Must Read

Some companies are just born with an infinite number of chances to keep doing everything wrong and yet somehow seem immune to the consequences. Uber is one of those companies. Uber's latest scandal -- a fat hack and its dirty coverup -- is just one in a long line of Uber-riffic examples on just how far a certain kind of privilege gets you.

The ride-sharing company only this week admitted to getting seriously hacked in October 2016. Its breach exposed personal information of 57 million users and leaked the license numbers of 600,000 drivers. Uber didn't report the breach to anyone, especially not victims or regulators. The company paid $100K to the hackers in hush money (as if that actually works) and concealed the payment in an expense column called "bug bounty."

Uber's new CEO Dara Khosrowshahi found out about it just after he took over from Travis Kalanick in September, but sat on it for two more months while he ordered an internal investigation.

The company's Chief Security Officer Joe Sullivan was ousted over the debacle, a mess that brought state lawsuits and federal questions. A few days after kinda-sorta facing the press over it, a letter emerged saying that Sullivan and his fellow security officers Craig Clark and Matt Henley insisted on using encrypted, disappearing messaging apps to avoid creating evidence that could be used in a lawsuit.

It's a uniquely Uber state of affairs. Yet this wasn't the first time Sullivan and Henley's Uber team purposely used apps like Wickr to avoid leaving a trail.

Back in July 2016, four months before the hack and cover-up, a Yale researcher filed suit against Uber alleging price-fixing and violation of antitrust law. It later came out that Uber's Chief Security Officer, the same Joe Sullivan, was asked by Uber lawyers to dig up dirt on the Yale researcher.

Sullivan -- incidentally, Facebook's former Chief Security Officer -- forwarded the attorney's request to the company's head of Global Threat Intelligence, Mathew Henley -- also incidentally Facebook's former "e-crimes manager." Court-obtained documents showed that both parties used Wickr and encrypted email "to avoid potential discovery issues."

The kind of malignant hubris it takes to make the day-to-day of a security team into a premeditated harm machine is remarkable enough on its own. I mean, that's quite a culture you've got there. Just imagine the interesting things Facebook's security team must've gotten up to!

But hey. That was then, and this is Uber.

Uber launched in March 2009, when San Francisco was still reeling from the Great Recession. As is the custom, around every ten years a tech bubble bursts. All the techies helplessly watched as their mostly useless, perennially over-funded ideas exploded in their faces and made them as penniless as the poor people they'd previously stepped over to get their lattes.

The economy tanked; former high-rolling, coke-huffing, web-famous dot-com douchebags around town suddenly found themselves working in cafes, bitterly wondering why the meritocracy had forsaken them. Future Uber drivers, one and all.

All I'm saying is, it takes a special kind of person to fantasize about a white-glove, luxury, on-demand car service during a brutal recession -- and launch it in a city with a world-famous homeless crisis. Travis Kalanick and Garrett Camp, the two techbros who created Uber are those kind of people. The kind that start a company that not only embraced an obsession with flaunted wealth to rival the 1980s, but embodied the ideas and ideals of a libertarian playground.

And by "embodied" and "ideals," I really mean "performed a Stanford Prison Experiment on everyone who wasn't an executive."

Uber was the ultimate "unicorn." The darling of the startup scene. Uber's early success meant that nearly every pitch by startup jocks "in Silicon Valley seemed to morph overnight into an 'Uber for X' startup." Companies worshipped Uber, praying they could become the next "Uber for" anything, copying everything about Uber they possibly could.

And indeed, some were -- like Wag, the "Uber for dog walking." Companies and founders humiliated themselves by saying they were going to be "Uber for shipping," "Uber for beauty," and "Uber for bike repair," among many, many other things (even "Uber for Uber wanna-bes").

For several long, truly repugnant years in the Bay Area, everyone wanted to be Uber.

The funny thing about libertarian playgrounds like Uber is that they're really only a playground for the bros at the top. They didn't name it "Uber" after some god of frat boys and indifference, but it would've made sense.

Echoing the aspirations of a slave-owning class was practically the company's spiritual tagline, as well as the brutal reality of its company culture. Uber centered its business model on drivers as sweatshop labor. It's re-invention of the workplace was a virulently insecure techbro's wet dream. Uber onboarded its new employees by having them pledge to Uber's 14 core values, the heart of which emphasize "meritocracy," a Silicon Valley principle that has long proven to be foundational to the startup and tech world's massive race and gender problem. Still, Uber's prized values also included "toe-stepping," making bold bets, and to "always be hustlin'."

Leonardo DiCaprio on set  movie "Wolf of Wall Street (Photo by Mehdi Taamallah/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

That "meritocracy" part is probably the most important piece of this little Grimm's fairy tale for the ages. It's the hallmark of white male privilege. If the White House was an engine, the lie of meritocracy -- and its key component, white privilege -- are its oil.

Not surprisingly, people of color haven't been part of Uber's core values. A study last year found that Uber and Lyft have a pattern of discrimination against black passengers. "Waiting times for black Seattle passengers were 35% longer, and Boston drivers cancelled rides for black passengers more than twice as frequently," press reported.

Anyway, under the banner of "toe-stepping" Uber became Lord of the Flies. After an exhaustive investigation NYT wrote:

Interviews with more than 30 current and former Uber employees, as well as reviews of internal emails, chat logs and tape-recorded meetings, paint a picture of an often unrestrained workplace culture.

(...) One Uber manager groped female co-workers' breasts at a company retreat in Las Vegas. A director shouted a homophobic slur at a subordinate during a heated confrontation in a meeting. Another manager threatened to beat an underperforming employee's head in with a baseball bat.
It was almost as if Uber brought its own rope to the gallows. In a 2014 GQ article, Travis Kalanick referred to Uber as "Boober" because of how the company got him laid. Two years later, engineer Susan Fowler published a detailed blog post describing a deeply-ingrained system of discrimination and sexual harassment by her managers. She had gone ignored by Uber's HR department.

No surprise there: when Eric Alexander was Uber's president of business in the Asia Pacific he obtained the medical records of a customer who was a rape victim: He was sure she was lying.

Despite the arrest and sentencing of the driver, Alexander refused to believe the woman had actually been raped, and was keen to convince others of this belief. At the same time Kalanick bragged about "Boober" Alexander was showing the rape victim's medical records to Kalanick and Uber's SVP Emil Michael. "In addition," press wrote, "numerous executives at the car-hailing company were either told about the records or shown them."

According to press covering her post about sexual harassment at Uber, "Ms. Fowler said the culture was stoked -- and even fostered -- by those at the top of the company." Shortly after, in an emergency board meeting about the issues Fowler raised one male board member cracked a sexist joke about women talking too much.

It's hard to figure out which of the 14 core values covers user privacy violations. Would that be "toe stepping"? The most famous incident was when Josh Mohrer bragged in 2014 to a female reporter about tracking her movements in a Uber without her consent. Though the nonconsensual spying -- Uber's so-called "God view" -- had been documented as far back as 2011. When the world found out Uber execs were using "God View" feature to nonconsensually spy on customers in real time, the company told press it had strong policies against employees accessing users' trip information.

But according to Reveal from The Center for Investigative Reporting, the company wasn't coming clean. "Uber's lack of security regarding its customer data was resulting in Uber employees being able to track high profile politicians, celebrities, and even personal acquaintances of Uber employees, including ex-boyfriends/girlfriends, and ex-spouses," a court declaration detailed.

Interestingly, these very roads led back to Uber's security department. Former senior security engineer Michael Sierchio told Reveal that Uber's privacy protections for users were pretty much just a gesture. "When I was at the company, you could stalk an ex or look up anyone's ride with the flimsiest of justifications," he said. "It didn't require anyone's approval."

Uber's company culture, and its conduct, are a reflection of Silicon Valley and all her tech companies. And it's a free for all! Seriously. If Uber is the ultimate unicorn and a leading example of Valley success, and its playmate Facebook, no one here seems to care about anything but themselves, at least until they're caught.

There is no end to Uber's prison experiment on all of us, nor of its self-entitlement at any cost. Kind of like the Trump White House. In fact, it's a lot like the Trump White House, with whom Kalanick stubbornly defended working with until he was all but forced to resign. Outcry over the Muslim Ban -- and Uber's breaking of the taxi strike at JFK during the detentions, prompted the #DeleteUber hashtag. The pressure for Kalanick to resign from within Uber mounted, as the hashtag cost the company 200,000 users.


Really, so many good times. Remember when California forced Uber to remove its self-driving vehicles from the road? That was last year, when the state canceled the company's controversial pilot program in San Francisco after a week of reports of dangerous traffic violations, Uber denied the violations even happened, and state officials had to step in.

There was also "Greyball" as reported by the New York Times, "a worldwide program to deceive the authorities in markets where its low-cost ride-hailing service was resisted by law enforcement or, in some instances, had been banned." But wait, there's more! In August the public learned that the Justice Department "has taken preliminary steps to investigate whether managers at Uber Technologies Inc. violated a U.S. law against foreign bribery."

This is all from the company that began this year as the most valuable startup in the world. Yet simultaneously, in January 2017, Uber had lost a historic amount of money in a record amount of time: $2.2 billion in 9 months.

I mean, in case you're wondering exactly how much a bunch of techbros can get away with.

Kalanick stepped down as CEO in June, much to the outrage of his servile fellow techbros, but Uber still struggles to wrest control from his hands. The firing of security team lead Joe Sullivan after the hack and cover-up investigation seems positive, yet that new CEO Dara Khosrowshahi knew about it for months before its victims did isn't exactly a great look for a new Uber. Travis Kalanik may be gone, but his legacy permeates the walls, the framing, the foundation.

Travis Kalanick himself summed it up best perhaps, when he yelled at an upset driver to 'take responsibility' for his 'own shit.

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