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Uber bans use of data tool to evade regulators

Uber has prohibited its employees from using a program called Greyball to evade regulators.

This policy change follows revelations last week that Uber was using the tool to identify and avoid local enforcement personnel who were investigating the ride-hailing service.

Greyball combined data from the Uber mobile application with other pieces of information to target likely enforcement agents. When Greyball identified a potential public official, Uber could send that individual a fake version of the app that either showed ghost cars or indicated that no cars were available.

“We are expressly prohibiting its use to target action by local regulators going forward,” said Joe Sullivan, Uber’s chief security officer, referring to Greyball in a statement. “Given the way our systems are configured, it will take some time to ensure this prohibition is fully enforced.” A company representative declined to tell The New York Times why the ban would take “some time” to implement.

The city of Portland (OR) has asked for an investigation. The Times reported that Uber used the Greyball tool to interfere with the city’s efforts to catch illegal drivers when the company was operating illegally in 2014.  Code enforcement personnel used the Uber app to request rides, but Greyball helped the company identify the regulators and cancel their ride requests. Link to full story in The New York Times.

Image source: Uber

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