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U.S. criminal probe is latest in string of bad news for Uber

Anthony Levandowski, then-head of Uber’s self-driving program, speaks about the company’s driverless car in San Francisco on Dec. 13, 2016. A recent letter from the U.S. attorney’s office confirmed that the Justice Department has opened a criminal investigation connected to allegations that Levandowski, a former Uber executive, stole self-driving car technology from a Google spinoff to help the ride-hailing service build robotic vehicles. (Eric Risberg/Associated Press)

Uber’s woes seem to deepen every time the world turns.

Days after another British city declined to renew Uber’s license,  a federal court in San Francisco has unsealed a document confirming the existence of a criminal investigation by the Justice Department of allegations that Uber stole trade secrets.

The Nov. 22 letter from Justice — which was unsealed Wednesday, the Associated Press reports — is the department’s first confirmation of an open investigation of allegations that a former Uber executive stole technology from Waymo that would help Uber in the race to develop self-driving vehicles.

The Justice letter did not identify the targets of the investigation, the AP report says. But it did reveal that an unidentified Uber official has told investigators that Uber “routinely used secret communications channels and devices that could help conceal the existence of any technology stolen from a rival.”

Uber, which has publicly denied the allegations, did not respond to requests for comment from The Washington Post.

Justice department opens criminal probe into Uber

The revelation of the Justice investigation comes days after British media reported that the City of York Council had followed London’s lead in declining to renew Uber’s license, and less than a month after an Israeli court ordered the company to cease operating with unlicensed drivers in Tel Aviv, as reported by the Financial Times.

The York council’s gambling, licensing and regulatory committee took action Tuesday after witnesses testified that Uber’s handling of a massive hack attack on its accounts was evidence enough to show that the company was not trustworthy.

“Fifty-seven million is the number of Uber accounts that were hacked,” Wendy Loveday, a taxi driver, told the council. “Thirteen is the number of months that it took Uber to finally admit that they had not only been hacked but had also paid a ransom to the hackers. . . . They should have reported the breach of their security within 72 hours — meaning they sat on this information for 9,288 hours more than is legally allowed.”

Loveday said Uber passengers now had reason to fear not only for their physical safety,  but for the security of their online accounts and urged the council not to renew the U.S. company’s license.

“Uber [officials] have deliberately deceived the world and they will continue to do so,” Loveday said. “Do not be a party to this deception.”

York’s Council hearing is here, with Loveday’s testimony:

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