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Uber reverses on decision to keep ‘Greyball’ tool to evade law enforcement officials

Thursday, March 9, 2017 3:25
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Taxi-hailing app Uber has taken a U-turn on its decision to keep its “Greyball” tool to evade law enforcement efforts.

Uber said it will stop using the programme, which uses geolocation data, credit card information, social media accounts, and other data to identify users who may be involved in sting operations.

“We have started a review of the different ways this technology has been used to date,” Uber’s chief security officer Joe Sullivan wrote in a blog post. “In addition, we are expressly prohibiting its use to target action by local regulators going forward.”

The decision to scrap the tool comes after Uber defended it as a necessary for protecting its drivers from harm.

“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 company said in a statement earlier this month.

The New York Times had reported that Uber had used the secret programme for years to deceive authorities.

Greyball was used in Boston, Las Vegas, Philadelphia, Portland, Oregon, as well as Australia, South Korea, China, France and Italy.

The news follows string of scandals at Uber, including the testing of self-driving cars in San Francisco, California without a permit in December.

City and state officials demanded the cars be taken off the road but Uber resisted.

“We cannot in good conscience sign up to regulation for something we’re not doing,” Anthony Levandowski, head of Uber’s autonomous vehicle program, said at the time.

“It’s an important issue of principle about when companies can operate self-driving cars on the roads and the uneven application of state-wide rules across very similar types of technology.”

However, Uber has since backtracked and on 2 March announced that it would apply for a permit to test the cars in San Francisco.

The company is also facing a lawsuit from Waymo, the self-driving car company spun-off from Google, on claims Uber was involved in the “calculated theft” of secret technology.

Uber has also come under fire over allegations of sexual harassment and gender discrimination and a viral video of CEO Travis Kalanick arguing with an Uber driver who complained of lowered fares.

Story by ProactiveInvestors


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