Uber to ban ′Greyball′ software that tricks regulators | Business| Economy and finance news from a German perspective | DW | 09.03.2017
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Business

Uber to ban 'Greyball' software that tricks regulators

The online ride-hailing service has promised to stop using a tool that tricks regulators trying to catch illegal drivers. The New York Times revealed Uber's "Greyball" software deceived authorities in several countries.

Uber said it had begun a review of the ways its "Greyball" software was being used, just days after being forced to admit the existence of the tool used to stop unlicensed drivers being caught by undercover regulators.

"We are expressly prohibiting its use to target action by local regulators going forward," Uber chief security officer Joe Sullivan said in an online post. But he said it would take some time to fully implement the change.

The "New York Times" (NYT) exposed the software nicknamed "Greyball" that identified regulators posing as riders while trying to collect evidence that Uber's service was breaking local laws governing taxis.

Regulators duped

The software served up a fake version of Uber's popular app to make it appear the undercover regulators were summoning a car, only to have the ride never show up or canceled.

NYT reported that regulators in several US cities as well as those in Australia, France, China, Italy and South Korea were targeted.

The cat-and-mouse game with regulators is the latest example of the aggressive tactics that Uber has adopted while challenging the heavily regulated taxi industry in dozens of countries.

Uber said the tool was only used to deter passengers who were harassing or threatening its drivers.

Colombia Uber Taxi Verkehrschaos (Getty Images/AFP/G.Legaria)

Uber's expansion has led to protests from traditional taxi services who are often heavily regulated

"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," Sullivan said in the post.

Awkward questions to answer

The San Francisco-headquartered company said it would also respond to city officials who have been inquiring whether their regulators were being greyballed.

Earlier this week, Uber began searching for a chief operating officer to help embattled chief executive Travis Kalanick steady the wheel at the fast-growing on-demand ride service.

The tech firm faces challenges keeping growth on track at a company valued at more than $60 billion (56.9 billion euros), amid embarrassing revelations about a corporate culture of sexism and its treatment of drivers.

Separately, Google's parent company Alphabet filed a lawsuit against Uber alleging the ridesharing firm used stolen technology for its autonomous driving program.

Uber also announced it was bringing back self-driving cars in the US state of California after receiving a permit from regulators.

In December it was forced to halt a pilot program after a number of self-driving Uber vehicles did not stop for red lights.

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