Kansas candidate Brian McClendon says he was unaware of cover-up while VP at Uber

photo by: Nick Krug

Brian McClendon, a former vice president of Uber Technologies Inc., is currently running for Kansas secretary of state.

TOPEKA — Brian McClendon, the Lawrence native and former tech executive who is now the Democratic nominee for Kansas secretary of state, said Thursday that he was unaware of a massive data breach and subsequent cover-up that occurred at Uber Technologies Inc. in 2016 while he was serving as a vice president of the company.

“At the time I was a VP of engineering at Uber working on maps and machine learning. I and nearly everyone else at Uber found out about the data theft at the same time as the rest of the world,” McClendon said in a statement to the Journal-World. “By that point, I was already planning to leave the corporate world and return home to Kansas. I’d been mentoring Kansas startup businesses and promoting STEM education and jobs here, and wanted to get more involved in my home state.”

McClendon’s comments came after California Attorney General Xavier Becerra and San Francisco District Attorney George Gascón announced Wednesday that Uber had agreed to pay $148 million to settle claims nationwide that the company engaged in a massive cover-up after hackers accessed personal information of some 25 million customers and drivers.

Rather than reporting the data breach, as required by law, Uber reportedly paid the hackers $100,000 for their silence.

Becerra announced the settlement in a news release Wednesday, calling Uber’s decision to cover up the breach “a blatant violation of the public trust.”

“The company failed to safeguard user data and notify authorities when it was exposed,” Becerra said. “Consistent with its corporate culture at the time, Uber swept the breach under the rug in deliberate disregard of the law.”

The breach wasn’t reported to law enforcement or the public until November 2017, after McClendon left the company, when it was uncovered by an internal review by Uber’s board of directors, according to Becerra’s press release.

McClendon, a Lawrence native, became famous in the tech industry when he helped develop an application known as EarthViewer. The company that developed that application, Keyhole Inc., was later acquired by Google. McClendon moved to Google with his old company, and the mapping application became known as Google Earth.

He left Google in June 2015 and moved to Uber, where he worked on that company’s mapping software. But he left Uber in March 2017, several months before the data breach was made public. A spokeswoman for McClendon said he did not serve on the board of directors that ordered the internal investigation.

McClendon was one of several executives who left Uber around that time as the company was being rocked by allegations of sexual harassment and the failure of its CEO at the time, Travis Kalanick, to do anything about it. Kalanick stepped down from the company in June 2017 amid allegations of other kinds of abusive behavior.

The lawsuit over the 2016 data breach was filed by attorneys general in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. Of the $148 million settlement, Kansas will receive $738,261.86, a spokeswoman in Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt’s office said.

Those funds will go to the attorney general’s office to pay for attorney fees and costs of the investigation and litigation, Schmidt’s office said. The funds will also help pay for operations of the office’s Consumer Protection Division.


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