Uber's Secret "Greyball" Program Allegedly Targeted Law-Enforcement Officials

Uber's Secret

Among the information used by the program are credit card information, geolocation data, and social media accounts.

The program makes booking a ride hard for users whom Uber suspects of carrying out sting operations aimed at busting drivers in jurisdictions where its legality is unclear.

According to the Times, when Uber began operations in a new city where operations weren't clearly legal, the company would appoint a manager in charge of the Greyball program. Boston, Paris and Las Vegas drivers also avoided capture through the Greyball program. On the contrary, an Uber spokesperson tells MediaPost that Greyball "denies ride requests to fraudulent users who are violating our terms of service", including "opponents who collude with officials on secret "stings" meant to entrap drivers". The program was used in locations like Australia, China, Italy, South Korea, and France. That operation is called "violation of terms of service" or VTOS, which addresses everything from competitors looking to disrupt Uber's operations to law enforcement looking to catch violators of government taxi regulations. In the last several years, Uber expanded aggressively - often by entering markets without first seeking permission from government officials. Google's self-driving auto company Waymo has also filed a lawsuit against Uber over the alleged theft of trade secrets.

Ubers internal system, Greyball, used data from the Uber app to monitor activity by its users.

Mahesh Bhatt gets death threats, files police complaint
The filmmaker was thankful for the Maharashtra and the Uttar Pradesh police for tackling the case and nipping it in the bud. Subsequently, a case was registered by Juhu Police and the anti-extortion cell of Mumbai Crime Branch launched a probe.

The tool allowed Uber to show law enforcement officers images of "ghost" cars on the app or show that no cars were available for use, the paper said.

The Times writes that Uber would use about a dozen signifiers to determine if a rider was a municipal employee or someone who could enforce restrictions on the company.

The incident, which circulated on social media, was another hit for the image of the global ridesharing giant, which faces accusations of sexual harassment and a lawsuit contending it misappropriated Google's self-driving vehicle technology. Oregon Live reported at the time that officials with the City Commissioner's office couldn't seem to book a ride, leading them to theorize that they'd already been blocked by the ride-haling provider. Uber launched with city approval in April 2015. And the Uber drivers they were able to hail also quickly canceled.

At a minimum, these revelations could cause more problems for Uber with regulators, who might not take kindly to efforts to evade detection.

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