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Rachel Whetstone. Photo by Toru Yamanaka//AFP/GettyImages

Former Uber Southeast Asia executive Eric Alexander this week sued former Uber communications chief Rachel Whetstone (soon joining Netflix) for allegedly breaching a two-way non-disparagement agreement.

Why it matters: This case could remind potential media sources they have few legal privacy protections.

The details: Alexander's complaint relates to the 2014 rape of a female Uber passenger in India, and media reports that Alexander obtained the victim's medical records and handled them improperly.

  • In his filing, Alexander claims he received the documents legally from an Uber-retained India law firm (as part of the overall case file,) and at the request of Uber corporate.
  • He also believes Whetstone was a source of the media reports, although she was not identified in the reports and Alexander presents no specific evidence.

Between the lines: There is lots of he-said/she-said stuff in the complaint, but let's just focus on the core claim and the case's broader implications:

  • The involved reporters (Recode's Kara Swisher and Bloomberg's Eric Newcomer) are covered by a media shield law in California, so neither would be required to divulge their sources.
  • But Rachel Whetstone would have no such protections and, in theory, the judge could allow a plaintiff request for things like phone or email records. Particularly if Alexander persuasively claims that it's the only viable way to discover a core piece of potential evidence.
  • Sources don't have legal privacy protections, according to a media attorney who spoke with Axios. They are almost never sued because it's highly unusual for a "violated" party to know a leaker's identity with any degree of certainty, but theoretically it can happen.
  • Alexander's decision to only sue Whetstone — after reportedly considering a broader defendant class — likely speaks to his effort to minimize the appearance of a fishing expedition.

Be smart: That said, even if Alexander can receive Whetstone's records — and even if they show she communicated with the reporters about him (yes, a big "if") — he would still have to prove that her comments were factually untrue.

Whetstone declined comment, and Alexander's attorney didn't get back to me. Uber, which isn't named as a defendant, also declined comment — including on the question of if it did or didn't ask Alexander to obtain the victim file — as did former Uber CEO Travis Kalanick.

Go deeper

CDC director warns "now is not the time" to lift COVID restrictions

CDC director Rochelle Walensky warned states on Monday that "now is not the time" to lift public health restrictions, as the recent dramatic declines in coronavirus cases and deaths "appear to be stalling."

Why it matters: While the average of 70,000 new infections and 2,000 daily deaths is nowhere near the extremely high levels recorded at the start of 2021, the figures are still a poor baseline to "stop a potential fourth surge" — especially with the threat posed by more contagious new variants, Walensky warned.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren introduces "ultra-millionaire" wealth tax bill

Photo: Greg Nash-Pool/Getty Images

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) on Monday introduced a bill in the Senate that would impose a new tax on the assets of America's wealthiest individuals.

Why it matters: The plan, which Warren introduced along with Reps. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) and Brendan Boyle (D-Pa.) is similar to a proposal that was the centerpiece of Warren's campaign for the presidency in 2020.

3 hours ago - World

Former French President Sarkozy sentenced to jail for corruption

Nicolas Sarkozy, 2011. Photo: XINHUA/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images

A court in Paris on Monday sentenced former French President Nicolas Sarkozy to one year in prison and a two-year suspended sentence after he was found guilty of trying to bribe a magistrate, AP reports.

Driving the news: Sarkozy, who was president from 2007 to 2012, is the first president in France’s modern history to have gone on trial for corruption, per AP. He was charged with corruption and influence-peddling.