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Uber Greyball Program Helped Company Evade Authorities Around The World

Uber Greyball Program Helped Company Evade Authorities Around The World

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

Uber maintains that this program is intended mostly for the protection of its drivers, from code enforcers working in concert with taxi interests.

Uber's bad year got worse this afternoon, when The New York Times reported that the company went to extraordinary lengths to circumvent investigations into its ride-hailing service.

To stymie those efforts, Uber served up a fake version of its app to make it appear the undercover regulators were summoning a auto, only to have the ride canceled. The Greyball technology allegedly blocked targeted authorities from booking an Uber ride, showed them false images of available drivers in the app or quickly canceled any rides they were able to book.

Uber told the newspaper Greyball denies ride requests for people who are violating the company's terms of service for a multitude of reasons, including enforcement stings. It was also used worldwide in Australia, China, Italy and South Korea.

Among other things, the company has faced lawsuits for classifying its drivers as independent contractors to save money and allegedly stealing the technology for a fleet of autonomous cars that it is now testing.




Some of the techniques reportedly used by Uber include building a virtual perimeter around authority offices and facilities in cities which the company monitored for app usage.

A report from Reveal News regarding a lawsuit in December that likewise made claims about the risks of Uber's data management practices in terms of internal exposure to company employees, and mentioned Greyball by name. The company would then display a fake version of the app to the "Greyballed" phone, complete with ghost cars that don't exist.

This latest report about Uber comes on top of engineer Susan Fowler's well-publicized allegations of sexual harassment, and the posting of a video showing CEO Travis Kalanick arguing with a driver over fares.

Uber is no stranger to conflict with regulators and local authorities.

Boston Police spokesman Lieutenant Michael McCarthy said the city's officers have never conducted a sting operation aimed at catching drivers, and that the citations came because officers happened to see Uber drivers operating on the road.

And in Florida, Hillsborough regulators coordinated with taxi and limousine companies on an undercover operation that lured out Uber drivers so they could be assessed US$700 fines.

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