The New York Times reported on Friday that Uber was using technology, dubbed internally as "Greyball", to prevent certain groups of individuals from using the Uber app including local regulators and law enforcement looking to catch the company operating in locations where its service is banned or restricted.
Uber is now reviewing its use of the technology, Joe Sullivan, the company's chief security officer, wrote in a company blog post Wednesday. A March 3 report on the program in The New York Times cited a 2014 example where a regulator in Portland, Ore., a city in which Uber was operating without approval at the time, was unable to hail a auto because of his Greyball-powered app.
The ride-hailing start-up will be reviewing the usage of "greyballing" to date, with the prohibition of use on local regulators from today. He also suggested that a range of organizations had requested more information on Greyball's use, and "we will be working to respond to their inquiries once we have finished our review". The Greyball app showed cars that didn't actually exist, and real drivers who offered rides quickly canceled, according to the Times.
The company told NYT, however, that an alternate view of the app is shown to customers that have violated Uber's terms of service.
After the Times report, Uber did not deny the existence of the tool in a statement it provided to Business Insider.
Uber Technologies Inc. will end the practice of showing fake versions of its app to government officials suspected of conducting sting operations on drivers. Uber has said the system is used for a variety of purposes, including protecting drivers from violence.