In a letter obtained exclusively by BuzzFeed News to both individual consumers and corporate clients, Gett — a global app-based car service company that operates in New York, Tel Aviv, and London, among other cities — denounced the actions of executives at competing company Uber, suggesting that the company's practices are "verging on NSA style surveillance on users."
"What they have been doing is not only unethical and immoral, but it's also likely illegal," Global Chief Marketing Officer Rich Pleeth wrote. "Accessing private users['] data without their permission is certainly no small issue. At GetTaxi we take personal data extremely seriously, we have numerous safeguards and privacy policies ensuring that all personal data on our servers is entirely secure, particularly as have some of the world[']s largest businesses using our enterprise solution."
The letter comes in the aftermath of the BuzzFeed News' report that Uber Senior Vice President Emil Michael suggested spending $1 million to hire opposition researchers to dig up dirt on journalists (the company is, in fact, looking to fill an opposition research position as BuzzFeed News reported, though it plans only to target incumbent taxi companies) and another BuzzFeed News report that Uber is investigating a top executive in New York for accessing this reporter's data without permission.
"We're not 'assholes' tracking you when you take a ride with us and are not going to dig into your private life if you write a negative tweet or story," the letter reads.
Pleeth went on to express concern for the corporate clients that signed up for Uber's recently launched service: Uber for Business.
"We have over 2000 enterprise clients and have been offering this service for three years," he wrote. "Uber recently launched their very basic Business solution, and now, are businesses going to be happy that their employees are likely to be tracked by any Uber employee curious enough to look, private lives looked into if they write negative comments? I'm going to guess no."
Since Gett launched in New York (the only city the company operates in in the United States), the company has made a point to differentiate itself from the industry leader. Gett began its quest to distinguish itself from the competition by rolling out a promotional $10 standard fare for rides anywhere in the city (excluding the outer boroughs) and followed it up with the announcement that the company will pay its drivers double the per-minute rate that Uber pays. The company rolled out that 70-cents-per-minute rate (compared to Uber's 30-cents-per-minute rate) after a group of Uber drivers organized a series of protests against a permanent price cut that made Uber X rides cheaper than yellow cabs.
In a previous interview with BuzzFeed News, Gett CEO Ron Srebro said that the company's efforts to offer a low fare for passengers but high wages for drivers is in part subsidized by the success of their business in their existing markets in other parts of the world. To further ensure the company is able to sustain this business model, the company has chosen to forego an advertising and marketing budget instead allocating those funds to pay their drivers.
But it seems the company isn't foregoing marketing entirely. These public efforts to differentiate itself from Uber are a sort of stand-in for elaborate billboards or digital advertising.
That aside, Pleeth's letter makes clear Gett's stance on Uber. Borrowing the phrase inside quotation marks, Pleeth twice refers to the transit giant as 'assholes.' "Uber has come up with a process to get press; they go out and break the law because they have the largest war chest to pay their high profile lobbyists and lawyers to quash complaints, regulators, and competition," the letter reads.
And it's not just app-based rivals. The "taxi incumbents" Uber is so keen to take down are also speaking up. In its own open letter, the Committee for Taxi Safety, a taxi company and driver association in New York, urged the Taxi and Limousine Commission to begin an investigation into Uber's "usage of passenger data and the God View technology."
"We also ask that their license be suspended until the riding public can be assured that their privacy and data are safe," the letter addressed to TLC Commissioner Meera Joshi stated. "Nobody should worry about being tracked against his or her will and without his or her permission."
Here's the full letter from Gett that BuzzFeed News received exclusively: