What ride-hailing app Grab thinks about rival Uber’s alleged spying

RIDE-HAILING company Grab believes action should be taken against Uber if the spying allegations against its global competitor were true.

In a statement to Asian Correspondent on Thursday, Grab said it had full confidence in the capabilities of law enforcement agencies to investigate the recent claim, which was revealed in a Bloomberg report.

The statement, issued by Grab’s communications team, said Uber’s alleged practices have not impacted Grab’s “leadership in ride-hailing” and the company remained focused on growing its business and cementing its “unassailable market leadership”.

“We uphold ourselves to strict quality management standards and internal governance, and work closely with regulators and governments in all the countries that we operate in for nation-building efforts,” the statement read.

“We believe in being responsible corporate citizens and believe companies should be held accountable by the government and public for their corporate behaviour.”

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According to the Bloomberg report on Tuesday, Uber’s staff allegedly deployed a special software, called Surfcam, to scrape data from its competitors to find out how many drivers were in their systems in real-time and their locations.

Uber also reportedly used the tool on Grab, its biggest rival in Southeast Asia since a breakthrough on the software came in 2015 from Uber’s office in Sydney.

While much has not been reported about Surfcam, the software was named after webcams popularly used in Australia and other countries which were used to help surfers read swells and determine the best times to ride them.

A person familiar with the matter told Bloomberg that the software was a cause for concern with at least one member of Uber’s legal team as it may run afoul of Grab’s terms or Singapore’s strict computer-crime laws.

Uber has yet to respond to the allegation.

On the legality of Surfcam, Choo Zheng Xi, a litigation lawyer and director at Singapore-based law firm Peter Low & Choo, told Tech in Asia that the “practice may potentially get problematic is if data scraping turns into something more targeted and invasive.”

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Choo said Uber would likely be held liable under Singapore’s Computer Misuse and Cybersecurity Act (CMCA) if it had scraped data owned by Grab.

“It’s less controversial if Uber was merely trying to obtain insights into customer behaviour by data scraping public interactions on the Grab web page,” Choo was quoted as saying.

“Apart from whether or not Uber’s broken any laws, if Grab lawyers up, they’d probably be advised to start looking into questions of whether Grab can characterize Uber’s behaviour, together with its software developers, as a conspiracy to cause it economic loss by illegal means. Again, the jury’s out on that.”

However, Wayne Ong, another Singapore-based lawyer said that data scraping per se is illegal, but rather, the manner by which the data is obtained is what should be asked.

“The CMCA protects against hacking. If the data used is publicly available, there may not be any hacking involved.”

 

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