Greyball: How Uber Used Secret Software To Dodge the Law

Uber's annus horribilis continued apace Friday, as it was hit with revelations of a secret program to evade law enforcement, the resignation of another top executive and more allegations of workplace discrimination.

The New York Times reported that for years Uber used a tool called Greyball to systematically deceive law enforcement officials in cities where its service violated regulations. Officials attempting to hail an Uber during a sting operation were "greyballed" -- they might see icons of cars within the app navigating nearby, but no one would come pick them up. The program helped Uber drivers avoid being ticketed.

Greyball used geolocation data, credit card information, social media accounts and other data points to identify individuals they suspected of working for city agencies to carry out the sting operations, according to the Times. It was used in Portland, Oregon, Philadelphia, Boston, and Las Vegas, as well as France, Australia, China, South Korea and Italy.

Uber defended the program, saying in a statement that it "denies ride requests to fraudulent 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 ?EU?stings' meant to entrap drivers."

The company's spokespeople drew a distinction between law enforcement and code enforcement, arguing that it was the company's right and obligation to protect its drivers from harm, even if that harm was a traffic citation. They claimed that local officials were colluding with the taxi industry to intimidate Uber drivers, citing a report of intimidation in Las Vegas.

The spokespeople declined to speak on the record.

A law professor consulted by the Times, Peter Henning, said it was possible the program violated the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act or could be considered "intentional obstruction of justice."

According to the Times, Uber's legal...

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