Move follows alleged intentional use of ‘Greyball’ software to evade authorities.
The US. Department of Justice has seemingly begun a criminal investigation into Uber, and its alleged use of a software tool called ‘Greyball’ that helped its ‘drivers’ evade local transportation regulators, in places where it had not yet been licensed to operate.
‘Greyball,’ was allegedly used to identify local jurisdiction officials posing as passengers, and then not pick them up, so they were unable to prove Uber drivers were operating illegally. The company have now been ordered under subpoena from a Grand Jury hearing in North Carolina to hand over documents relating to the use of its ‘Greyball’ Software. The nature of any federal criminal violation and the potential for anyone at Uber itself being charged is, as yet, unclear.
But that said, Uber was forced to admit in March, following a report by the New York Times, that ‘Greyball’ existed. At that time, the tech company also admitted, that they had used the software to identify and circumvent government officials who were trying to prove that Uber drivers were working. And all this happened, allegedly, with the full knowledge of Uber management. The New York Times investigation claimed that Uber have used Greyball all around the world. However, the DOJ and most subsequent reporting has centered around areas such as Portland, Oregon. Uber stated that ‘Greyball’ had not been used there however, since April of 2015, when it received permission to operate in the area. Like that somehow makes it all OK…
Uber have claimed that they use/used Greyball primarily to prevent fraud and protect drivers from harm, a company blog post said, and sort legitimate passengers from bogus ones. Which begs the question, why did they stop using it when they were approved to work in an area? Transportation officials in Portland said last week that Uber had used Greyball to evade 16 Portland Bureau of Transportation officials, in December of 2014, consequently denying them dozens of rides before Uber was authorized to operate there in early 2015.