Justice Dept. opens criminal probe into Uber's evasions

by Frankie Norman May 7, 2017, 0:46
Justice Dept. opens criminal probe into Uber's evasions

The Times report triggered a barrage of negative publicity for the company.

It has now been revealed, according to Reuters sources, that the company could be facing criminal proceedings for the use of the software.

An Uber spokesman and the Justice Department declined to comment. The company says the tech was used "exceedingly sparingly" in Portland before it was approved there in 2015.

Bloomberg news service reported the existence of a federal probe last week, but did not identify it as criminal. However, the city said no evidence was found to suggest that Uber continued using the tool after it gained legal approval in Portland.

Still, Uber reportedley received a subpoena from a Northern California grand jury seeking information about Greyball and how and where it was used. It does not, in itself, indicate wrongdoing or mean charges will be brought.

The launch of criminal proceedings is just the latest in a long line of controversies and investigations that have been fired toward Uber over the last few months - all raising questions about CEO Travis Kalanick's ability to lead the company and, often, criminal buccaneer actions.

"We have started a review of the different ways this technology has been used to date", Joe Sullivan, Uber's chief security officer, wrote in a March 8 blog post announcing a review of how Greyball was used.

Greyball was part of Uber's broader fraud detection system, which relied on credit card information, location, device information, and other data to determine if a ride request was legitimate. The company claims it was developed as a way to cut down on fraud and protect drivers from violent taxi union protestors, and it claimed at the time that it still uses Greyball primarily for this objective.

In cities where Uber isn't legal, authorities sometimes put together sting operations in which they hire Ubers and then ticket drivers and impound cars.

However, employees told Reuters that it was also used to single out potential authorities, based on factors like affiliation with police credit unions and social media profiles. The tool helped Uber thwart efforts by local authorities to catch the ride-hailing company violating local regulations.


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