Singapore: Does Uber spying on Grab count as desperate move?

Uber is allegedly collecting data on drivers of its arch-rival in Southeast Asia, Grab.

Update: A Grab spokesperson on Monday reached out to IBTimes Singapore to comment on the issue saying, "We have full confidence in the capabilities of law enforcement agencies to investigate these allegations. Uber's alleged practices have not impacted Grab's leadership in ride hailing and Grab remains focused on growing our business and cementing our 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. We believe in being responsible corporate citizens and believe companies should be held accountable by the government and public for their corporate behaviour."

Original story: Uber is in hot water again following a recent report revealing that it uses a stealthy software to spy on Grab. Since Greyball, an app it admittedly used to avoid road traffic and local authorities, the ride-hailing service seems to make software programs as a weapon of choice to take advantage, not only of regulators but of competitors.

Bloomberg on Wednesday, October 11 reported that Uber is allegedly collecting data on drivers of its arch-rival in Southeast Asia, Grab. A software called Surfcam has been identified as the tool being used by the US company.

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Citing people familiar with the project, the report stresses that Uber employees "scraped data published online by competitors to figure out how many drivers were on their systems in real-time and where they were".

Grab is the primary target of the software in Southeast Asia. The app was first in operation in Australia since 2015 when Travis Kalanick was still the chief executive.

Although a member of Uber's legal team questioned the practice, the company has continued to push with the Surfcam app.

Under Singapore's Computer Misuse and Cybersecurity Act, "any person who knowingly causes a computer to perform any function for the purpose of securing access without authority to any program or data held in any computer shall be guilty of an offense."

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Choo Zheng Xi, director of Singapore-based law firm Peter Low & Choo, tells Tech in Asia in an interview that "surfcamming" could turn out to be a bad move.

"Where the practice may potentially get problematic is if data scraping turns into something more targeted and invasive," says Choo. "It's less controversial if Uber was merely trying to obtain insights into customer behavior by data scraping public interactions on the Grab web page."

The unidentified developer of the software used to work at Uber in Australia who was later transferred to the company's Singapore office, states Bloomberg. The developer is said to have moved to Uber's European headquarters in Amsterdam.

As of press time, neither Uber nor Grab returned a request for comment.