A former Air Force investigator who now works in "Global Security" for the transit company Uber omitted his employer's name — and scrubbed it from his LinkedIn profile — when he attended the conference of Uber's archenemy, the taxi lobby, last month.
The security staffer, Roger Kaiser, left his Uber affiliation off the form at the Taxicab, Limousine, and Paratransit Association's (TLPA) annual conference in San Antonio last month, TLPA spokesperson John Boit confirmed to BuzzFeed News — and the apparent undercover operation prompted a furious response from the group.
"This is just more evidence of Uber buying into its own myth that they supposedly need to conduct clandestine research against anyone — organizations or journalists — who are against them," Mike Fogarty, the president of the TLPA, told BuzzFeed News. "They aren't in a political campaign. They are simply a business that is not following the rules. All I can say is that I hope this gentleman from Uber, and whoever else they had in the room, learned a thing or two about how a responsible transportation company operates."
Kaiser paid the $555 registration fee, which gained him full access to all of the conference's sessions as well as access to the trade floor, Boit said; he said none of the members he spoke to recalled coming into contact with Kaiser.
A spokesperson for Uber, Kristin Carvell, confirmed that Kaiser, a former special agent in the Air Force Office of Special Office of Special Investigations, had attended the conference and defended his conduct. She ignored questions about why Kaiser's LinkedIn profile had, as recently as Nov. 18, no mention of Uber — though it had previously included his employer, according to cached Google search results.
"Roger completed the required registration and attended the Taxicab, Limousine and Paratransit Association's (TLPA) annual conference, which is open to members of the industry and at which Uber was an agenda item in multiple sessions," Carvell said in an emailed statement. "He attended while employed by Uber, a company that partners with taxi and limousine services in cities around the world."
At some point between Nov. 18 and 25, Kaiser restored Uber to his LinkedIn profile.
The TLPA and Uber have had a publicly contentious relationship. The TLPA launched "Who's Driving You," a campaign to expose the regulatory issues the association believes Uber, Lyft, and other transit apps are violating. Uber, in turn, has been looking to fill an oppositional research position to "weaponize" facts about organizations and specifically cited campaigns by the TLPA, as BuzzFeed News reported last week.
The only barrier to entry to the TLPA conference is the registration fee. The registration forms ask attendees to identify the company they work for, which is then written under their name on the conference badge that each attendee receives. According to Boit, the TLPA does not have a history of turning employees of other car service companies down. The year before, Hailo employees attended the conference and identified themselves as Hailo employees.
"We knew they were in attendance, and we had direct, open conversations with them," Boit said. "Nothing clandestine, no cloak-and-dagger nonsense."
Uber did not respond to questions about what Kaiser's position of "Global Security" entails. On LinkedIn, Kaiser's most "endorsed" skills include counterterrorism, counterintelligence, criminal investigations, surveillance, intelligence operations, and countersurveillance.
Johana Bhuiyan is a tech reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in New York. Bhuiyan reports on the sharing economy with a focus on ridesharing companies.
Contact Johana Bhuiyan at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Got a confidential tip? Submit it here.