Uber found itself on the controversial side of things when it was revealed the ride-sharing company has been using customized software to avoid law enforcement. This application, which is known as Greyball does not help drivers to avoid law enforcement officers though it does protect them from agencies doing sting operations on unsuspecting drivers.
Depending on the location of the Uber pickup, the software is designed to determine the likelihood the individual violating the company’s terms of service and display either no available Ubers or “ghost” cars which show how busy the service is at the time. The purpose is to deceive or throw off authorities that oppose Uber’s services within a particular area or so the drivers can work without being disrupted even in the cities where the company does not have an approved mandate.
Greyball news in the public domain
Since news of the software became public knowledge, Uber has been working overtime to mend its ties with regulators as pressure mounted for the firm to improve its business practices and tone down the aggressive market approach.
On Wednesday, the company obtained the necessary permit to put its self-driving cars back on the streets of California, while conceding to the state rules after an altercation with regulators the previous year and refusing to apply for the standard $150 permit.
More Uber confessions
Uber confirmed the existence of the Greyball software on Friday, stating the system was still in use, but made sure to say it was in a lesser form than it had been used as the company expanded into new cities. One spokeswoman from Uber also confirmed the program was only implemented in order to keep the drivers and app users safe from disruption by enforcement agencies.
The official description of the software by the firm goes along the lines of a system that denies ride requests to fraudulent users who violate the terms of service, whether that is people who pose physical danger to the drivers or even competitors that are looking to disrupt the day to day operations.
Where Greyball is in use
Publications like the New York Times have claimed Greyball is currently in use in a number of cities including, Boston, Las Vegas and even overseas.
Critics of the firm have been quick to claim this as another blunder that will sign Uber’s death warrant, by adding it to the list of issues the company is dealing with. These include the allegations of sexual harassment and the poor treatment of drivers by the company.
As such, the company’s public relations has been taking a beating and this subject is not helping considering the government is not taking Uber’s side on the subject.
Greyball as its name would suggest is definitely shady when one thinks about how the engineers used predictive models and social media accounts of enforcement officials to map activities and methods.
However, it is not illegal. In fact, it is a plus for the company on the customer service side. while accusations of sexual harassment and working conditions paint the company in a bad light to clients, the fact that it is creating a program to help avoid service disruptions is definitely a bonus for the firm.