Business

Top Uber Official Managed to Obtain Medical Records of Delhi Rape Victim

According to a report in Recode, Uber executive Eric Alexander took the records back to the US for examination, where CEO Travis Kalanick and other officials doubted the veracity of the incident.

The logo of car-sharing service app Uber on a smartphone over a reserved lane for taxis in a street is seen in this photo illustration taken December 10, 2014. Credit: Reuters/Sergio Perez/Illustration/Files

The logo of car-sharing service app Uber on a smartphone over a reserved lane for taxis in a street is seen in this photo illustration taken December 10, 2014. Credit: Reuters/Sergio Perez/Illustration/Files

New Delhi: Top Uber executives managed to obtain the medical records of an Indian woman who was raped in Delhi by a driver working for the online taxi service, according to a media report.

A report published by Recode on Wednesday pointed out that these medical records were then taken back for examination to the United States, where other officials including CEO Travis Kalanick “had trouble believing that the incident was entirely true”.

According to the report, Eric Alexander, Uber’s former president of business for Asia-Pacific, was in India at the time of the incident and “investigated the claims” of the rape victim. Alexander was only very recently let go from the company.

It is not clear at this point, and the Recode report doesn’t know one way or the other, whether Alexander managed to obtain the medical records of the victim through legal means.

In India, it is possible under a limited number of circumstances to get medical files and court records (which could contain medical and health details) although there is separate privacy protection for rape victims, women and minors.

It was only in 2016, two years after the rape incident, that India’s ministry of health and family welfare notified the electronic health record standards (EHRs) which looked to put in place data ownership and privacy standards around health data collected digitally from customers.

Doubts, Ola sabotage

After obtaining the medical records, however, Alexander “brought the files to Kalanick and Michael [Emil Michael, SVP], who read them”, Recode notes, quoting unidentified sources.

“Still, soon after, all three began to raise the prospect that Ola — Uber’s prime competitor in India — was behind the incident to sabotage the company, sources said. Some Uber staffers who were told about the medical report by them were disturbed to hear the executives were considering the scenario, based on their reading of the medical report, that the woman’s story was not true,” the report states.

According to the report, Alexander was still in possession of the victim’s medical records and documents for almost a year after the incident before other company executives obtained the report and destroyed his copy of the medical records.

In the weeks after the Delhi rape incident, and after the Uber driver was given a life sentence, Uber India head Amit Jain issued a number of public apologies.

“Sexual assault is a terrible crime and we’re pleased he has now been brought to justice,” Jain said in a statement. “Safety is a priority for Uber and we’ve made many improvements — in terms of new technology, enhanced background checks and better 24/7 customer support — as a result of the lessons we learned from this awful case.”