Uber is in a particularly complex situation after several reports revealing the ride-hailing service's operation to deceive authorities. It was revealed that Uber have been engaged in a program spanning the world that is aimed to evade law enforcement.
According to The New York Times, Uber's program is called Greyball and it uses data collected by the Uber app and other programs in order to identify and deceive officials who are trying to clamp down on its service. The report added that officials who are tagged by the Greyball program might see icons of Uber cars in their app, but no one will come and pick them up. This practice helps Uber drivers to avoid being levied with a ticket.
Uber has used a tool called “Greyball” to fool authorities in cities across the world https://t.co/abK0tvzQuQ
— The New York Times (@nytimes) March 3, 2017
The Greyball program uses various personal and sensitive information in order to carry out its sting operation. Among the information used by the program are credit card information, geolocation data, and social media accounts. The program was used in locations like Australia, China, Italy, South Korea, and France. In the United States, the program was used in Las Vegas, Philadelphia, Boston, and Portland.
In a statement, Uber defended Greybal by stating the program "denies ride requests to fraudulent users who are violating our terms of service - whether that's people aiming to physically harm drivers, competitors looking to disrupt our operations or opponents who collude with officials on secret 'stings' meant to entrap drivers."
Uber have been facing a lot of criticisms since the start of the year. The service was hit with a $20 million settlement over claims that the company deceived its drivers about potential earnings, according to The Guardian. Google's self-driving car company Waymo has also filed a lawsuit against Uber over the alleged theft of trade secrets.