Published: Sat, March 11, 2017
Markets | By Erika Turner

Uber Works on Mending the Relationship with Regulators

Uber Works on Mending the Relationship with Regulators

Uber says it will stop using a secretive tool called Greyball to identify certain unwanted users.

Uber used Greyball to avoid local authorities who were investigating the company in US cities such as Las Vegas and Boston and in countries including Australia and China, according to The New York Times.

Finally, CEO Travis Kalanick - whose "regulate my dust!" attitude has animated the company he runs - is seeking a number two, he announced on the Uber blog Tuesday.

Uber's CSO - Mr. Joe Sullivan recently stated that the company is prohibiting the Greyball use to actually target action by the local regulators moving forward.

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With the gathered information, Uber's software could use geofencing to detect when calls came from areas where there were many law enforcement personnel. The technology uses data collected from the ride-hailing app to track and circumvent users who violate Uber's terms of service, including competitors and government sting operations. According to the Times, the Greyball program began in 2014 and is still regularly used by Uber. The Associated Press adds that Uber will respond to city officials like those in Portland, Oregon who have opened inquiries into whether their employees were "Greyballed". The post notes that it will take some time to enforce the prohibition due to "the way our systems are configured". "This technology is used to hide the standard city app view for individual riders, enabling Uber to show that same rider a different version", Uber stated.

Uber also sought to justify the tool's ability to deceive authorities by calling into question the motives of city officials, who Uber suggested were colluding with unspecified "opponents" of the company.

However, the company's blog post on Wednesday described Greyball as a tool that has "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".

Uber's efforts to fix its relations with regulators come amid a string of missteps that have sparked consumer backlash and raised investor concern.

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