The Delhi High Court has ordered Erbauen Labs (the makers of an app called Hush) to remove posts containing confidential business information about Ola, following a petition filed by ANI Technologies, Ola’s parent company. According to the order, Ola has attached about 167 pages of content that it is seeking the removal of.
The Delhi HC has also said that the defendants, ie Erbauen Labs, needs to “bring in court on the next date of hearing in a sealed cover the names and addresses of the persons who are uploading the impugned posts on the app.” MediaNama has a copy of the notice which can be read here: ANI Order (pdf)
We’re awaiting a response from Ashutosh Dabral and Umesh Joshi Chandra, the co-founders of Hush, who said that they were waiting to hear from Ola’s lawyers or the Delhi HC and would get back to us once they had consulted with their legal team.
We have reached out to Ola with questions as well, and will update this report when we hear from them.
There are some 50 odd posts on the Hush app pertaining to Ola at the moment (according to a Hush app search) ranging from a year ago to 2 days ago. The post content ranges from discount coupons for Ola to how the work culture is etc, but generally seems devoid of any confidential information, at a cursory glance. Hush’s content policy dictates that it utilises “community based moderation,” while pornographic, threats, harassment or bullying, racist and content not related to a company or career will be removed.
Note that at this stage, it is unclear if Ola is only seeking removal of the posts and content or if it also looking to get the details of its employees who created the post. It is also unclear as to why the Delhi HC is seeking the details of Ola employees in a sealed envelope.
What is Hush?
Hush lets its users create posts, and discuss within public and secret groups issues or comments related to company strategy, layoffs, promotions, work culture, relationships and other work related topics. While it does use a company work email or LinkedIn to verify that a user does work in the company they claim to work in, Hush says (also in the FAQ) that it does not store the email ID, and hence does not know the identity of a user.
Dabral told MediaNama that the company is still in its early stage, and has about 20,000 app downloads. In an email response, he added that while it does not share a breakdown of statistics when it comes to company employees and usage on the app, whatever is discussed in a company community is not visible to other users or the public. However, there is a global “wall” which is public and can be seen on its website.
“The only way an outsider can see that content is if an employee shows a friend that content on the app – but this is the same as someone showing a company email to friends – so it is not more / less risky than any official communication,” Dabral added.
The majority of Hush’s users are from Indian companies, but there are some from Singapore, Netherlands and Germany as well. Dabral says that the app uses an artificial intelligence and machine learning based moderation as well as a content moderation team to “keep the content clean.”
Interestingly enough, Ola and other company employees have gotten wind of the legal notice sent to Hush, and sure enough, there is a post about it which can be seen below.
However, on that post, a Hush admin has commented that:
1> We don’t save any user identity as mentioned on our website and app. So there is no way we can reveal it.
2> All we know about the legal notice is from the newspapers. We haven’t received it yet. But again as mentioned we don’t have any user identity so there is no way we can reveal it.
3> We have had more new company employees request a community for their company yesterday than we get in weeks – we wonder why :).
4> This product was built for the employees and not for the employers – it will be relevant as long as the employees find value in it.
5> Please ask your friends and colleagues to download Hush and see what they have been missing!
Some of the other posts include:
Erbauen Labs does not have a website outside of Hush. It currently seems to have 10 employees including the cofounders. The Bangalore based company was incorporated in July 2015. According to an ad for a job, Erbauen launched Hush last September or October and was looking for a marketing assistant to reach out to people on social networks, moderate content and do user research among other things.
Erbauen also has another app called VoyageUp which connects users on the same WiFi network. In December 2016, the company launched a new app for iOS and Android called MAU- Make America United which helped “users initiate a conversation with someone on the other side of the political spectrum.”
Ola on Glassdoor
It is interesting to note that Ola does have a presence on the anonymous reviews and company information website Glassdoor. Based on the information provided there, 61% would recommend working there to their friends, it has a 59% positive business outlook, and there is an 86% approval of the CEO Bhavish Aggarwal.
MediaNama’s take: Ola’s move of asking an app to remove content could set a bad precedent. Companies like Glassdoor couldn’t exist if companies went after its employees for posting information about the company they worked for. While we understand the matter of sensitive information, it remains to be seen if Ola ultimately seeks users information and what sort of action it takes with it.
Nikhil adds: It’s not clear what kind of confidential information has been shared on Hush. Ola might want to consider the Streisand effect, and potential impact on employee morale. It will be interesting to see what happens when Hush points out to the court that it doesn’t store user data. What will the court do then?