Taxi service Uber has for several years used a system Greyball, which allows you to fool city officials or law enforcement officers in the countries where the company’s services is prohibited or restricted. It is reported by The New York Times, citing four current and former employees of the company, RBC.
According to the publication, Uber has used this program in Boston, Paris and Las Vegas, as well as in Australia, China, Italy and South Korea.
Greyball is part of a large system, VTOS (abbreviated from the English. violation of terms of service “violation of terms of service”), which, in the opinion of the company, helps to identify those wrongfully using its services. VTOS as Greyball, is mainly used outside the US in 2014.
As an example, the NYT cites the work of the service in Portland, Oregon. The company has not received permission to provide services in this city, which his government has accused Uber in illegal work in December 2014. The newspaper reports about the case when the taxi came to one of the city patrol, since Greyball showed the driver that the passenger is a law enforcement officer.
Greyball collects data about users on the basis of geozones where they are. For example, Uber is monitoring the area around government institutions in the cities where the activity of the company is limited. If a person frequently uses the application, he, in the opinion of the company, associated with officials. This analysis allows the service to avoid or minimize challenges from authorities or law enforcement.
Among other techniques used by the company – analysis of credit card information. The company is exploring, is not tied whether it is a certain organization that could “hurt” the activities of the service to order a taxi.
If the person who is in this list, Uber, is trying to book a car the app shows him that all cars are occupied.
“This program rejects requests by unscrupulous customers, which may violate the terms of service – whether we are talking about people who want to cause physical harm to drivers, competitors who want to stop us, or opponents who collude with officials to lure drivers into a trap,” explained Uber.
The newspaper points out that at least 50-60 people inside the company knew about the use of Greyball. They have doubts as to the ethics of the use of this service, as well as its legitimacy. About the usage of this program was informed by first Deputy Director of global operations Ryan graves. He did not respond to a request for comment on this information, writes the NYT.
An active member of the Uber well-informed about the use of this program, in an interview with Reuters confirmed that Greyball do is used to avoid the orders from the police and authorities.