Uber, a “disruptive technology” that has changed peoples’ lives with app-based ride sharing, keeps stirring the pot by creating new opportunities for its drivers that some say are not in drivers’ best interests. The latest wrinkle in this saga is the San Francisco, Calif.-based company’s decision to offer direct car leasing to its drivers.
Uber will lease cars to drivers through a subsidiary called Xchange Leasing. Unlike most multi-year leases that have fees for early termination, drivers who participate in Xchange for at least 30 days can return the car with only two weeks’ notice, and limited additional costs.
The program allows unlimited mileage and the option to lease a used car, with routine maintenance also included.
Will It Help Uber More Than Drivers?
The leasing option could help Uber escape the scrutiny the company could face over pushing drivers into subprime car loans. Last year, the U.S. Department of Justice subpoenaed two of Uber’s vehicle financing partners, General Motors and Santander Consumer USA, according to valleywag.gawker.com.
While Uber claims the lease option will help drivers, the offering hasn’t come without controversy. Some drivers have criticized the move as another way Uber has managed to circumvent requirements to provide employee benefits.
One California-based driver, using the pseudonym “John Doe,” told Hacked.com that by leasing cars to drivers, Uber will have more control over drivers while not having to reimburse drivers for vehicle expenses. “John Doe” claims that by leasing cars, Uber is obligated to reimburse drivers for vehicle expenses under California law.
“Uber has repeatedly argued that they are an app-based technology platform, connecting riders and drivers. However, financing, owning and managing a fleet of cars makes them identical to a taxi cab company,” “John Doe” told Hacked.com. “Uber is breaking California law by violating the definition of a Transportation Network Company (TNC), which “is not permitted to itself own vehicles used in its operation or own fleets of vehicles.”
Hacked.com was able to confirm this requirement by viewing a California Public Utilities Commission document online.
“For the first time ever, Uber is directly financing drivers without providing any reimbursements for vehicle expenses,” “John Doe” said. “I’m scared to think that Uber will control not only how much drivers make, but also access to their personal vehicles.”
“Judging by the reaction in driver forums, I’m not alone,” he said. “Will Uber punish drivers who lease through Xchange for also driving for competing on-demand platforms like Lyft and Postmates? If you drop below a 4.6-star rating, will Uber ban you AND repossess your car?”
Uber Will Gain More Control Of Drivers
“By setting driver wages, exercising the right to terminate drivers and using drivers for its core business, Uber has crossed the boundary as an employer,” he added. “They have artfully shifted payment risk to drivers while withholding the most basic labor protections, including minimum wage, overtime pay, medical insurance and unemployment benefits.”
“John Doe” acknowledged the new leasing program’s benefits of eliminating mileage limits and the ability to end the lease early without penalty. “It is favorable, but my warning to all Uber drivers remains: beware of giving Uber too much power,” he said.
The Uber Controversies Continue
Uber’s new leasing policy adds another twist to a nationwide debate over app-based ride sharing programs.
Uber drivers have filed class-action lawsuits claiming they Uber has incorrectly classified them as independent contractors.
Three drivers sued Uber in San Francisco, Calif. federal court, contending they are employees and entitled to reimbursement for expenses, including gas and vehicle maintenance that drivers currently have to cover. The lawsuit, if allowed to proceed as a class action, could cover more than 160,000 California drivers.
Uber argued that the lawsuit should not proceed as a class action, citing statements of support from hundreds of other Uber drivers in a case that could decide whether they are independent contractors or employees, according to Reuters.
The results of this broader legal battle could reshape the “sharing economy,” as companies say the contractor model allows for flexibility that many see as important to their success. An ultimate finding that drivers are employees could raise Uber’s costs beyond the lawsuits’ scope and force it to pay Social Security, workers’ compensation, and unemployment insurance.
Re/code, an online technology news site, calculated that Uber could pay an additional $208.7 million a year if it had to reclassify its California drivers.
Many drivers, for their part, are highly critical of Uber. But based on a review of comments on driver forums, there is not a unified plan for what drivers should do to improve their situation.
Said one Facebook post: “They are making billions without having to pay the worker’s taxes, unemployment insurance, proper commercial vehicle insurance, workers comp, or fixed hour wages. They – Uber, Postmates, Lyft, and their ilk, are truly getting something for nothing. The worker takes all of the risk, (but) reaps little of the rewards.”
Said another Facebook post: “Do you people realize that once Uber drivers are deemed employees the whole business plan is gone and it’s Uber who?”
Images from Shutterstock.
Anonymous Inspired Comic ‘Hacktivist’ is Being Adapted for TV
Hacktivist, a graphic novel inspired by global hacking activist collective Anonymous and created by actress Alyssa Milano will be adapted for the small screen at a time when another Anonymous-inspired TV show Mr.Robot, is garnering rave reviews.
Alyssa Milano, an actress who has appeared in feature films and network TV shows is known for taking definitive stances politically, will see her 2014 graphic novel ‘Hacktivist’ adapted as a television series.
According to Deadline, The CW network will be developing an adaptation of the graphic novel Hacktivist, created by Alyssa Milano. The concept for the cyber-thriller graphic novel was pitched by Milano to comic publisher Boom! Studios, only coming after Marvel and DC in controlling the largest library of comic book IPs.
Hacktivist features two lead characters who run a successful social media company. The fictional characters are also hackers by night, inspired by popular hacktivist group Anonymous. Also, the protagonist in the comic was modeled after Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey, while the fictional company based on the real-life social media giant.
Speaking to the Daily Dot in an earlier interview, Milano revealed how the idea came about.
I became obsessed with the role of the media, and how it was being used as a tool for protest.
At the same time, Anonymous was using hacking skills to empower people. And I thought, ‘What if Anonymous wasn’t a group but one person?’ And that spiraled into, ‘What if Anonymous was one guy? What characteristics would he have?’ He’d have to be socially aware, a coder, have access, be compassionate.”
Hacking activists in various parts of the world tend to unify under the banner of ‘Anonymous’, a faceless, leaderless, decentralized group of anyone and everyone who takes up its name.
Some of Anonymous’ most prominent movements occurred on November 5, 2013. Millions of demonstrators in over 400 cities around the world jointly participated in the Million Mask March on the day that that remembered the Guy Fawkes Night. The Guy Fawkes mask is commonly seen as the symbol of Anonymous, with members of the group readily distinguishable in public by wearing the masks.
Anonymous has undeniably made its mark in the mainstream consciousness. Wildly popular and critically-acclaimed TV shows like Mr. Robot see its fundamental premise in hacker activism and the new TV adaption of ‘Hacktivist’ – directly influenced by Anonymous – will only further perpetuate the loosely-associated international hacktivist network.
Images from Amazon, Flickr and Shutterstock.
Anonymous Hacker Protesting Prosecution Begins Second Week of Hunger Strike
In 2014, Anonymous hacker Martin Gottesfeld was allegedly involved in the hacking of Boston Children’s Hospital following the suspected mistreatment of one of its patients. Now, the alleged hacker has begun his second week of a hunger strike in prison to protest the assumed prosecution of the late Internet activist Aaron Swartz and the controversial child-custody case involving Justina Pelletier, reports Newsweek.
Two and a half years ago, the hacker collective Anonymous released a video calling for attacks against the hospital. It was alleged that 15-year-old Justina Pelletier was being held against her will by the State of Massachusetts where she was ‘tortured physically and mentally.’
In a letter, Gottesfeld wrote that what happened to Justina Pelletier goes far beyond a medical or custody dispute, and beyond child abuse.
Tragically, tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of children have suffered horrific abuse at fraudulent places who have no legitimate right to call themselves ‘residential treatment programs.’
Two Demands Need to be Met
In order for his hunger strike to come to an end, Gottesfeld is asking for two demands to be met.
He wants the U.S. presidential candidates to make a promise ensuring that children are no longer mistreated, tortured, abused or killed, and he wants to end the style of prosecution that U.S. attorney for Massachusetts, Carmen Ortiz waged against Aaron Swartz, Reddit co-founder. Swartz is reported to have committed suicide after he was accused of alleged computer crimes.
Speaking to Newsweek, Dana Gottesfeld, wife of Martin Gottesfeld said that he believes his conditions will be met.
If the candidates make the pledge but don’t make good on it, he plans to strike again.
He faces up to five years in prison and a $380,000 fine.
For now, it remains to be seen if the presidential candidates will consider his demands. Given Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump’s previous thoughts on what he thinks should be done to Edward Snowden if he became president, you have to wonder what kind of reception Martin Gottesfeld will receive from him.
Featured image from Shutterstock.
Anonymous India: Mobile Network Reliance Jio is Sharing Call Data with Advertisers
The hacking group Anonymous is accusing the telecom network, Reliance Jio, of sharing its call data with advertisers in the U.S. and Singapore.
In a recent blog post, Anonymous India exposes how Reliance Jio has been sharing customers’ call data with foreign companies. Anonymous India also provide steps to see how Reliance Jio are sharing the data.
A year ago we had posted about how Reliance Jio was sharing user location data with China. One year on and nothing has changed.
In the blog post, Anonymous India claims that data from Reliance Jio’s My Jio and Jio Dialer apps are being sent to an advertiser called Mad.Me. It further adds that Reliance Jio is utilizing a third-party software development kit and is failing to verify what data is being sent and collected through it.
Reliance Jio Accused a Second Time
This, however, isn’t the first time that Anonymous India has accused Reliance Jio.
Last year the hacker activist group highlighted in another blog post that Reliance Jio had security flaws in its RJio chat app.
According to the 2015 post, data was being sent to a Chinese IP without encrypting it beforehand. This meant that while data was being leaked to the Chinese, anyone who wanted to could easily look into a conversation and know what was being shared or discussed, making it vulnerable to hackers.
Anonymous Never Forgets
When it comes to bringing the wrongs of others to light, the hacker activist group, Anonymous, are not afraid of standing up to the challenge.
At the beginning of the year, Anonymous targeted Thai police after protesting the conviction of two Burmese men who faced a death sentence in connection to two murdered British backpackers.
In May, Hacked reported that Anonymous had played a significant role in the target of financial institutions such as Greece’s central bank, which was targeted in a DDoS attack. According to the report, Anonymous consider central banks around the world as a ‘global banking cartel.’
In a bid to target those that it believes should be targeted, bringing greater awareness to the public, it seems that the hacktivist collective Anonymous won’t be stopping anytime soon.
Featured image from Shutterstock.
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