Since it’s inception in 2009, Uber has revolutionized the travel industry, making short distance travel simple and making taxi’s – and the hassle that accompanies them – obsolete. Recently, however, the company has come under fire for a tool they’ve been using known as “Greyball.”
This device was used to target regulators in cities where Uber was banned or restricted, such as Portland, Oregon. In an attempt to prove the company was still operating illegally, those regulators would order Uber’s undercover as proof, but the company was aware of this and used Greyballing to determine if the user was a government employee.
The tool tipped drivers off when users suspected of investigating Uber tried to use the app, it would show them “ghost cars” and prompt the driver they tried to book to immediately cancel, according to the study done by the New York Times on the subject. Now Uber Chief Security Joe Officer Joe Sullivan has responded to the allegations on Uber’s blog.
“We wanted to give everyone an update on “greyballing”. 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.”
While Sullivan remained adamant that their intended use of the device was for different, pure purposes, he stated that the company has “started a review of the different ways this technology has been used to date.” Whether it’s a situation of pleading ignorance after being caught or if it truly is a misunderstanding, it looks like the Greyballing tool is officially Blackballed from the Uber industry.