Uber Scandal 101


Sarah Lacy (right)
 
 

WHAT is the Uber journalist scandal?
 
Emil Michael, senior vice president of business at Uber, a large ridesharing company, suggested hiring private sleuths to investigate and publicly smear the reputation of a journalist named Sarah Lacy, who has been critical of the company.
 
According to reporting from Buzzfeed, Michael suggested hiring “dirt-diggers [that]… could expose Lacy. They could, in particular prove a particular… claim about her personal life.” Michael was under the impression that his comments were off the record.
 
Michael and the company have apologized for this threat. It is still deeply disconcerting that the idea would be entertained by a high-level executive. Companies like Uber have vast troves of data that could be used to manipulate journalists. These companies must have public, transparent, and enforceable standards that will make this sort of abuse impossible.
 
WHO was affected?
 
Michael’s threats against Sarah Lacy, who covers Silicon Valley culture and technology news for PandoDaily, came in direct response to a column Lacy wrote criticizing what she sees as misogyny in the company’s culture. Read the original article here.
 
Lacy was being targeted explicitly for her writing. This is a dangerous and wrongheaded attempt to silence this author for expressing her viewpoint, her constitutionally protected right.
 
WHY is PEN Center USA concerned?
 
PEN Center USA is deeply concerned about these threats against a journalist in retaliation for her work. We stand against intimidation and harassment of writers at all times and strongly condemn these comments. The threat of hiring oppositional research to dig up dirt on particular journalists would likely have a “chilling effect” on the free speech of all writers who examine corporate culture and malfeasance. Threats like these have no place in a free society.
 
Furthermore, this incident is a cautionary tale in the dialogue about privacy policy violations. Tech companies and their executives must be held responsible for suggestions of the invasion of users' privacy, as it sets a precedent in how these companies use or abuse data made available to them, especially as it pertains to freedom of expression. 
 
WHERE can I find out more?
 
  
  
  
 
WHAT can I do?
 
Share this post highlighting the dangers of technology companies having huge troves of data on journalists and writers.

 

Sign this petition to call on Uber to develop public, clear, and transparent privacy standards for journalists and other users of its services. The company must clearly and unequivocally forswear the use of its data to silence its critics. We urge the company to become a leader in the technology industry by developing clear and enforceable standards against the threat of privacy invasion.

 

 

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