The relationship was strained, Mr. Gicinto recalled, and both men seemed uncomfortable sharing the lead.
Even so, her work quickly picked up speed. The group, which grew to include dozens of employees, wanted to keep an eye on Uber’s overseas competitors, be they taxi drivers or executives at the Chinese carpooling agency Didi. But they also had to protect their own executives from surveillance and fend off web scraping operations that were using automated systems to gather information about Uber’s prices and driver supply.
It was an overwhelming task. To keep up, the team outsourced some of the projects to intelligence agencies who dispatched contractors to infiltrate driver protests. Other work was done in-house as Uber built its own scraping system to collect large amounts of competitive data. Scraping out public data is legal, but the law restricts the use of that data for commercial purposes.
The team rushed to hire more staff, and Mr. Gicinto was recruiting people he knew from his time with the CIA: a colleague, Ed Russo, and Jake Nocon, a former agent of the Naval Criminal Investigative Service who met Mr. Gicinto when they worked for the Joint Terrorism Task Force in San Diego.
When Jean Liu, Didi’s chairman of the board, visited the Bay Area, she was shadowed by Uber. And when Travis Kalanick, the then CEO of Uber, traveled to Beijing, staff attempted to shake off Didi’s surveillance teams by moving Mr Kalanick’s phones to other hotels to ping his location in a place he wasn’t.
“Every bit of that game for us has been helping our executives run their meetings without revealing who they’re meeting,” said Henley, who led Uber’s global threat operations. “And it was a lot of fun, wasn’t it? It was a game of cat and mouse that went back and forth. “