Uber Technologies Inc. is being investigated by the U.S. Department of Justice for using a software program known as “Greyball” to weed out and blacklist law enforcement authorities targeting the ride service company, according to Reuters.
Greyball was primarily used in cities across the world that the company was banned from, or not yet approved to operate in.
The software would use information gathered from various sources to pinpoint enforcement officials that would use Uber to call for a ride in an attempted sting. After such an individual was discovered, Uber would blacklist the account by sending the user a fake version of the app, complete with ghost cars and drivers who would cancel at the last minute, according to New York Times reporter Mike Isaac who broke the story in March.
A prime example of this practice took place in Portland, Ore., where the ride-hailing app was previously not permitted to operate. Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler expressed concern after the revelation.
“I am very concerned that Uber may have purposefully worked to thwart the city’s job to protect the public,” Wheeler said.
Uber did not deny the existence of Greyball, instead opting to release a statement explaining the software’s objective:
“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.”
Uber did say in its defense that Greyball was used “sparingly” in Portland before it became legal for the company to operate in the region.
This is just the latest in a string of bad publicity for Uber. Earlier this year the company’s chief executive was forced to apologize after his berating of a driver was caught on video.
[Reuters] [New York Times] [Photo courtesy James Sullivan/Getty Images via CNBC]