Uber admits its ghost driver tool was used to halt regulators, vows to stop
Uber admitted it used a tool to halt city regulators in a statement march 8 in San Francisco that announced a review of its controversial Greyball technology.
Greyballing, a play on blackballing, was a process for Uber officials to remotely provide ghost driver information to a targeted individual report on the program in The New York Times on March 3, cited a 2014 example where a regulator in Ore, Portland a city in which Uber was operating without approval at the time, was unable to hail a car because of his Greyball-powered app.
Joe Sullivan, Uber’s chief security officer, wrote in a blog post “We have started a review of the different ways this technology has been used to date, In addition, we are expressly prohibiting its use to target action by local regulators going forward.”
Joe also added that it would take the company “some time” to change configurations on Greyball. 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.”
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Portland mayor Ted Wheeler told the Times that he was “very concerned” about Greyball’s use to prevent city regulators from doing their job in overseeing Uber’s operations.
Uber’s response to the New York Times was that Greyball, which its legal team had approved, was created in order to deny ride requests to users who were violating the company’s terms of service.
The ride-hailing giant’s post emphasized that stance in the post, adding that Greyball has “been used for many purposes, for instance: the testing of new features by employees; marketing promotions; fraud prevention; to protect our partners from physical harm.”
Greyball’s retooling comes at a time of great challenge for the $70 billion private company, which until recently has enjoyed a sporadic rise.
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In the past few months, it has been projected with a #DeleteUber social media campaign in respect to its initial stance on President Donald Trump’s immigration ban, charges of rampant sexism from a former employee and a lawsuit from Alphabet-owned Waymo over self-driving car sensor technology.