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Uber Admits Using “Greyball” to Dodge Regulators

Uber driver in Bogota

In a statement from Wednesday, Uber admitted to using a specifically designed tool called “Greyball” which dodges regulators. In the same statement, they provided some details in regards with this controversial new technology. This greyballing technique reportedly represented a way for the company to provide some ghost driver information and send it to a specific person. Another recent report on the matter explained how a regulator in Portland could not get a car from Uber because of his app which the Greyball tool controlled. It happened back in 2014, so the situation is not that recent.

Uber vows to stop using Greyball

In a blog post, which Uber’s chief security officer Joe Sullivan wrote, the company says that it has started a thorough review on the exact use of this technology. Also, it vowed to top using it from now on. However, this is not going to happen immediately. It is going to take the company some time to change the way Greyball works. Lots of organizations reportedly asked for more information on this technology and Uber is going to provide it as it wants to be “in the clear” from now on.

Ted Wheeler, the mayor of Portland, also expressed his concern regarding the Greyball technology. He talked about how it stops regulators from doing what they need to do. In the meantime, Uber explained that they created Greyball in order to not allow rides to certain people. Especially ones who were not respecting the ride hailing company’s rules. Moreover, the technology reportedly has many others purposes like testing new features, promotion, the protection of their partners and so on and so forth. The fact that it also managed to dodge regulators was something that got a little out of control.

How did Greyball operate?

The Greyball technology was reportedly able to identify regulators who were acting as usual clients. It did this by gathering data on the location the person was calling the car from. Then, it checked if it had any government offices nearby. Moreover, according to some reports, the situation was even more complex. Greyball also checked the information on the person’s credit card to see if it had anything to do with official institutions. Another bizarre fact is that Uber reportedly checked phone shops in an effort to trace smartphones which officials bought. What was the next step? After Uber successfully identified the “fake” clients, the company was also sending them a “fake” Uber app. This version of the app displayed numerous fictional cars around the city. If the person still managed to get a real one, they cancelled their ride anyway.

Uber has been dealing with a lot of issues recently. A former employee accused the company of ignoring sexual harassment attempts at work. Apart from this, more recently, Uber’s CEO Travis Kalanick was filmed while he was in a heated argument with one of his drivers. He was swearing at the man and acting inappropriately. The video appeared all over the social media platforms and Kalanick immediately apologized for his behavior via a blog post.

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