Jacobs also noted that the intent of the unit was primarily to surveil overseas rivals.
That claim is now undermined in an explosive letter written by attorneys for Richard Jacobs, a former member of Uber's global intelligence team.
The hearing instead quickly turned into a forum raising more questions about Uber's ethics and corporate culture.
A federal court judge in California delayed the start of a civil trial between ride-hailing giant Uber and Waymo, Alphabet's self-driving vehicle unit, after receiving a memo written by a former Uber employee that about the alleged theft of trade secrets. San Francisco Judge William Alsup described it as a system that actively deletes messages after a small delay so as to leave no trace.
Waymo, the self-driving auto company spun out of Google's moonshot unit, has accused Uber of recruiting its former employees and stealing its trade secrets in order to advance its development of autonomous vehicles.
Summary: The trade secret lawsuit between Waymo and Uber has been postponed. According to Law360, a California judge ruled in Waymo's favor on Tuesday after Waymo accused Uber of hiding evidence that was discovered by federal prosecutors.
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Waymo has asked the court for additional depositions with Uber's former CEO Travis Kalanick and Uber's lawyers to investigate the details contained in the Jacobs letter.
Jacobs testified at the hearing that the letter contained allegations that Uber's markets analytics group "exists expressly for the objective for acquiring trade secrets, code base and competitive intelligence".
Waymo said that it had learned about the letter last week from the Department of Justice, according to MSNBC.
Jacobs was sworn in to give his testimony on Tuesday in the Uber-Waymo trial after prosecutors alerted the judge in the case that he had been in contact with them.
Uber denied using any of Waymo's trade secrets. The case centers around former Google employee Anthony Levandowski, who allegedly stole 14,000 "highly confidential" files before leaving the company to start his own self-driving truck startup.
Softbank, the Japanese firm leading the proposed investment, is proposing to buy the shares at a 30 percent discount from Uber's previous valuation of roughly $68 billion, according to multiple media reports citing unnamed people familiar with the terms.