November 27, 2017
Uber Admits Hack Exposed Tens of Millions
Ridesharing juggernaut Uber can’t seem to get out of its own way. The company parlayed a lot of early PR, political, and legal wins into the birth of an entirely new industry. The salad days are done, however. Since those big wins, it’s been one PR mess after another for Uber.
Now, perhaps, they are dealing with the worst. The company recently admitted to covering up a hack that put the personal information of more than 57 million customers at risk. In fact, they had to admit to keeping a lid on that hack for at least a year.
While, at present, there is no evidence any of the stolen data has been improperly used, that fact will be scant relief to the tens of millions of angry consumers who are still worried their information will be misused.
According to recent reports about Uber’s latest public relations scandal, the company paid hackers $100,000 to destroy the stolen information before it could be misused. That information leaves customers wondering just who to believe. Is their information really safe, or is this just another example of backside-covering by Uber.
The PR messes for Uber began with internal investigations into outrageous conduct by former CEO Travis Kalanick. Subsequent digging uncovered multiple allegations of sexual harassment at multiple levels of the company, as well as reports that employees were “encouraged” to tempt the legal limits in their work.
Now, there’s both the hacking scandal and the attempted year-long cover-up of the hack. In addition to the basic negative facts about the situation, Uber is facing a consumer atmosphere that is still smarting from the massive Yahoo jacking scandal that compromized about three billion user accounts from 2013 to 2016.
Then there was Equifax, whose hacking trouble earlier this year was compounded by the revelation that they waited several months to inform about 145 million Americans that their social security numbers and other personal credit information could be at risk.
In a statement related to the hacking announcement, Uber’s new leadership said the company could not do anything but apologize for the previous administration’s mistakes, try to clean those up, and promise to do better going forward:
“I can commit on behalf of every Uber employee that we will learn from our mistakes… We are changing the way we do business, putting integrity at the core of every decision we make and working hard to earn the trust of our customers.”
That’s a good message, but it won’t be enough. While the previous missteps put certain elements at Uber in a bad light, this one has consumers weighing their overall trust in the company … and they are finding it very easier to click over to another ridesharing app rather than deciding to extend that trust again. Uber needs to be more proactive in rebuilding that trust before they give away more market share.
Ronn Torossian is the Founder and CEO of the New York based public relations firm 5WPR: one of the 20 largest PR Firms in the United States.