Journalist-Tracking Uber Exec Gets Vague Hand Slap

"Don't worry -- we've got this. Move along," Uber basically has said. The company apparently has done something to straighten out exec Josh Mohrer, accused of playing fast and loose with a journalist's data, but the public doesn't get to know the details, and Mohrer keeps his job. Uber evidently "doesn't believe it owes anything to anyone," said PR expert Richard Laermer.

Uber has disciplined the company executive accused of using an internal tool to track a journalist’s whereabouts, it confirmed on Monday. The company offered no details about the nature of that reprimand, however, or about the possibility of taking similar action against another executive who publicly suggested the possibility of targeting journalists with a smear campaign.

“We have concluded our investigation and taken disciplinary actions against NYC General Manager Josh Mohrer,” the company said in a statement provided to TechNewsWorld by Sarah Maxwell.

Uber also has hired law firm Hogan Lovells to evaluate its privacy policies and practices, including employee training and compliance, it said, adding that that investigation is already under way.

Uber’s data privacy policy applies to all employees, the company said last month. Access to and use of data is permitted only for legitimate business purposes, and violations result in disciplinary action, including the possibilities of termination and legal action.

Uber, also was in the news Monday for hiring Goldman Sachs to raise funds from the bank’s high-net-worth clients.

Uber did not respond to our request for further details.

Playing God

Attention focused on Mohrer last month when a BuzzFeed reporter accused him of using an internal tool called “God View” to look up her travel data as she made her way to a meeting with him.

The company launched an investigation of Mohrer as a result.

It also published its privacy policy for the first time, even as it battled related accusations against Senior Vice President Emil Michael for suggesting that Uber hire opposition researchers to dig into journalists’ personal lives.

Mohrer has been implicated in several other scandals at Uber, but he remains in his current position, according to Slate, which first reported on the company’s disciplinary action against him.

‘They Can’t Afford Any Misstep’

“If I am the guy that runs Uber, I have to take immediate and decisive action showing exactly where my policy stands,” author and customer service expert Shep Hyken told TechNewsWorld.

“Uber has to take a position with Mohrer that sets the tone for the rest of the company as well as the public, because the public is looking at this,” he added.

While similar issues can plague any company, Uber is under particularly close scrutiny, in part because of its business model, Hyken pointed out. “They can’t afford to make any misstep or have any kind of negative publicity.”

A Statement Not Made

“I’d like to think that this would cause a huge disruption in their business, but I don’t believe that will happen,” said Richard Laermer, CEO of RLM Public Relations.

“If this were a less arrogant company, they would fire the people who made these horrific comments and did these dirty deeds, and they would move on with new people at the helm,” he told TechNewsWorld. “That’s called making a statement. And having values.”

Uber, however, is “a company that doesn’t believe it owes anything to anyone, or so it has shown,” Laermer charged. “I can’t imagine any PR company getting them to do anything.”

‘He Should Go’

In reality, “the only way they will take any real action is if one of the cities starts to ban them,” Laermer predicted.

“This company reminds me of a child who likes to see how far he can go before his parents send him to his room without dinner,” he said.

“As a PR pro, I am shaking my head at its latest shenanigans. It’s sort of typical of them now, and that’s a sad state,” Laermer observed. “Mohrer seems the worst of the group. He’s the most outrageous and the one who seems the least repentant. He should go.”

Katherine Noyes has been reporting on business and technology for decades. You can find her on Twitter and Google+.

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