Uber Used Secret Software to Hide From Authorities: Report

Uber Used Secret Software to Hide From Authorities: Report

A new report has detailed how Uber tried to deceive authorities in markets where it wasn’t allowed to operate.

Published by  and citing anonymous sources who provided documents, Uber allegedly used a tool called Greyball that uses data collected from the Uber app and other techniques to identify and avoid officials. It reportedly used the software for years worldwide to fool authorities in markets where the service was being resisted by law enforcement, or even outright banned. Those markets include Boston, Paris and Las Vegas in the U.S., as well as Australia, China, Italy and South Korea.

 reports the Greyball tool was part of a program called “violation of terms of service,” that Uber created to identify people it thought were using or targeting its service improperly. The program is believed to have begun as early as 2014 and is still in use, mostly outside the U.S.

SEE ALSO: Uber Defies California Regulators, Keeps Self-Driving Cars on San Francisco Streets

One video showcases the Greyball tool in action when Erich England in Portland, Oregon tried to hail an Uber car downtown. England is a code enforcement inspector and was part of a sting operation against the company. At the time, Uber has begun operating in Portland without seeking permission from the city, which later said the service was illegal. As part of the process of building a case against Uber, England posed as a rider, using the Uber app to hail a car.

But Greyball made sure England never got a ride.

Some of the digital cars that appeared on the Uber app weren’t actual vehicles and Uber drivers that were able to hail also quickly canceled. It is believed Uber tagged England based on data collected from the app and in other ways, resulting in a fake version of the app showing up and populating it with fake cars in order to evade capture.

In a statement, Uber said “This program denies ride requests to users who are violating our terms of service — whether that’s people aiming to physically harm drivers, competitors looking to disrupt our operations, or opponents who collude with officials on secret ‘stings’ meant to entrap drivers.”

The report says Greyball was approved by Uber’s legal team, but outside experts are uncertain about the legality of the program.

[Source: The New York Times]

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