The ride-hailing company Uber confirmed the use of Greyball on Friday. The program was designed to avoid authorities in cities where the service faced a resistance by the law enforcement.
Greyball was created in 2014 under the name of “Violation of terms of servicer”. The VTOS program purpose was to find people Uber thought was using the app improperly.
New York Times reported the existence of greyball earlier in the year. The program uses data from the company app and other sources to identify possible law enforcement officials. The program was dedicated to cities that opposed the ride services. In case a ride was solicited near a police station, Greyball would alert the driver to avoid or cancel the ride.
Greyball has several tools to fool the officials
The program can show images of imaginary Uber cars near the person. It can also show that there are no cars available in order to trick the officials. The authorities in cities without a proper legal framework regarding the ride service aimed uber cars to ticket, tow or impound the cars.
The authorities in cities without a proper legal framework regarding the ride service aimed uber cars to ticket, tow or impound the cars.
Greyball is used to protect Uber’s Drivers against possible threats.
In an email, Uber stated that the purpose of Greyball is to deny the service to fraudulent users who are not respecting the terms of service. It also explains that there are people trying to harm the drivers, competitors who want to disrupt Uber’s operations and even opponents who side with an official to attack the company.
According to the company, the use of Greyball has scaled back since there legislation towards the service has improved. The Uber’s legal department approved the use of greyball in cities without a clear legal foundation. The use of greyball was for personal use, not commercial, a Spokeswoman added.
Currently, the program is still active in situations where the drivers are under certain threats withing the 15 US states without ride-sharing laws. These threats include tickets, arrests, and other legal punishments.
The New York Times revealed that the Greyball to avoid authorities in Las Vegas, Boston, and Paris. The program was also used in Australia, China, Italy and South Korea.
Authorities from Boston, Portland and Philadelphie are said to inspect the case closely. The spokesman from the Oregon transportation bureau stated that they will examine the evidence closely and emphasized the efforts to undermine the public’s protection.
A spokesman for the Philadelphia Parking Authority said that his agency was aware of Uber’s evasion but they reacher and agreement in which Uber paid $350.000 fine.