(Courtesy photo)

Uber broke California law by concealing massive data hack, L.A. city attorney says

For more than a year, Uber Technologies Inc. concealed a massive hack that exposed the personal data of millions of drivers and riders, violating a California law that requires companies to promptly report such breaches, according to a lawsuit filed Monday by Los Angeles City Attorney Mike Feuer.

In October 2016, hackers stole the names, cellphone numbers and email addresses of more than 57 million riders across the world, as well as driver’s license numbers for 600,000 Uber drivers in the United States. Uber disclosed the hack last month.

Feuer filed the lawsuit in Los Angeles County Superior Court on behalf of California residents. The case will focus on Uber’s failure to disclose the data breach to Uber’s California drivers, he said.

California law requires companies to report hacks “in the most expedient time possible” and “without unreasonable delay” when some forms of personal data, including driver’s license numbers, are compromised. The law is designed to help consumers fight identity theft.

Instead, Uber paid the hackers $100,000 to destroy the data, pressured them to sign nondisclosure agreements, and portrayed the ransom as a payment to test the vulnerabilities of the company’s data security systems, according to the lawsuit.

“We’re taking action because we believe very strongly in the importance of protecting consumers,” Feuer said Monday at a news conference at Los Angeles City Hall.

Feuer said he doesn’t yet know how many drivers in California were affected in Uber’s lawsuit.

The lawsuit seeks $2,500 for each violation of the law. Any payments would be shared between the city and the county of Los Angeles, and would be spent on consumer protection efforts, Feuer said.

In a statement, an Uber spokesperson said the company is happy to address regulators’ questions, and is “committed to changing the way we do business, putting integrity at the core of every decision we make, and working hard to regain the trust of consumers.”

In January 2016, Uber paid a $20,000 fine to the New York attorney general for failing to promptly report a separate data breach in 2014. That previous disclosure, Monday’s lawsuit said, makes the company’s “gross conduct … even more alarming.”

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