Uber exec who shared rape victim records fired

Marco della Cava
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A man walks past the sign for the Uber headquarters in downtown San Francisco.

SAN FRANCISCO — Uber said it had fired an executive who ran its Asia Pacific operations after a news outlet reported his involvement in a rape-case investigation in India.

Eric Alexander, who according to his LinkedIn profile was president of business for Uber Asia Pacific, allegedly went to India in 2014 after a woman was raped by her Uber driver in order to secure her medical records, according to a report in Recode.

Alexander then shared those records with CEO Travis Kalanick and another senior Uber official, Emil Michael. The three Uber execs questioned whether Indian-rival Ola was connected to the incident in order to sabotage Uber, sources told Recode. The driver had been arrested and received a prison sentence.

On Tuesday, Uber told Recode Alexander had not been among the 20 Uber employees fired as a result of investigations by law firm Perkins Coie into 215 incidents of alleged sexual discrimination, bullying and other workplace infractions at the company.

Travis Kalanick, Founder and CEO of Uber, delivers a speech at the Institute of Directors Convention at the Royal Albert Hall, Central London, Britain, on October 3, 2014.

On Wednesday, Uber confirmed to USA TODAY and Recode that Alexander was no longer with the company.

Uber would not confirm any of the other details in the Recode story. These include allegations that Alexander shared the woman's medical files with a range of Uber executives and held onto the files for as long as a year before being asked by company officials to get rid of them.

The Recode report raises questions over the rigor of Uber's internal investigations as well as adds to a list of instances in which Uber has played fast and loose with consumers' privacy. The most notable example: "God View", a tool that Uber employees used to track the movements of Uber riders including celebrities and politicians without their permission.

Elizabeth Ames with the Anita Borg Institute called the review of medical records "a gross violation of someone's privacy and completely and utterly inappropriate."

"As a company that is serving the public, consumers, [the Recode report] has to give every consumer out there pause," said Ames, senior vice president of programs, marketing and alliances for the Anita Borg Institute, a group that advocates for women in tech.

As for the allegation that Kalanick himself reviewed the medical records, "I think that is something that the Uber board has to respond to. It's very problematic in my opinion," Ames said.

Alexander's sudden dismissal comes at a time of intense scrutiny for Uber, whose workplace culture has been described as both sexist and ruthless.

Former engineer Susan Fowler wrote a detailed blog post in February detailing her experiences with sexual harassment by her boss, which human resources executives responded to by blaming Fowler and defending her boss.

Since then, Kalanick has vowed to revamp the 12,000-employee company, and is on the hunt for a chief operating officer. Uber also commissioned an internal investigation in the its culture spearheaded by former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, the results of which are due out June 13.

This week, Uber made two hires aimed at showing it was taking the matter seriously. It brought on board adviser Frances Frei, a Harvard University expert on corporate cultural transformations, and hired Apple marketing exec Bozoma Saint John, who is now the highest ranking African-American at Uber and is charged with tackling the massive task of burnishing Uber's tarnished image.

Despite such steps, many observers question whether Uber officials are doing enough to address the allegations. Kalanick, whose aggressive and frat-like approach to business is well documented, has never suggested he would step down.

And in a recent interview with USA TODAY, Uber HR boss Liane Hornsey suggested that sexual harassment was not among the company's top issues, adding that employee morale and compensation were the major concerns.

Contributing: Jessica Guynn

Follow USA TODAY tech reporter Marco della Cava on Twitter.

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