Uber has announced that it will no longer use its greyballing tool to prevent local authorities from using its services. According to a recent report by The New York Times, Uber had been “deceiving” authorities in markets where its ride hailing services witnessed opposition and resistance from local authorities. The program uses the Uber app to collect user data and identify officials who did not approve of its services. For these individuals, the Uber app would not show actual vehicles in their proximity, and instead falsely represent available cabs on the map. If a cab ended up being booked by any one of these officials, the Uber driver would inevitably cancel the ride.
Backlash followed the NY Times report and now, in a press statement, Uber’s Chief Security Officer Joe Sullivan has cited the reasons for the company’s greyballing practices.
According to Sullivan, “This technology is used to hide the standard city app view for individual riders, enabling Uber to show that same rider a different version. It’s been used for many purposes, for example: the testing of new features by employees; marketing promotions; fraud prevention; to protect our partners from physical harm; and to deter riders using the app in violation of our terms of service.”
The CSO also said that Uber is “expressly prohibiting its use to target action by local regulators going forward.” However, the company did not address any wrongdoing on its part in the past, when this tool was actually being used to evade the said officials and authorities. “Given the way our systems are configured, it will take some time to ensure this prohibition is fully enforced. We’ve had a number of organizations reach out for information and we will be working to respond to their inquiries once we have finished our review,” writes Sullivan.