Uber is sensitive to bad press, just like anyone. But, unlike most people, Uber knows what time you went home Saturday night—and from where. And to combat negative coverage, BuzzFeed reports, an Uber executive went so far as to suggest the company should consider turning that knowledge into a competitive advantage in dealing with the press.
BuzzFeed editor-in-chief Ben Smith reports:
A senior executive at Uber suggested that the company should consider hiring a team of opposition researchers to dig up dirt on its critics in the media — and specifically to spread details of the personal life of a female journalist who has criticized the company… Over dinner, [Uber executive, Emil Michael] outlined the notion of spending “a million dollars” to hire four top opposition researchers and four journalists. That team could, he said, help Uber fight back against the press — they’d look into “your personal lives, your families,” and give the media a taste of its own medicine… In fact, the general manager of Uber NYC accessed the profile of a BuzzFeed News reporter, Johana Bhuiyan, to make points in the course of a discussion of Uber policies. At no point in the email exchanges did she give him permission to do so.
In response to the BuzzFeed story, Michael said the words that came out of his mouth were not a reflection of the actual thoughts in his brain—nor was it a reflection of Uber policy. An Uber spokewoman told BuzzFeed: “Any such activity would be clear violations of our privacy and data access policies.”