Mar 3, 2017

Uber said to use software to foil local regulators

AP File

The New York Times' Mike Isaac is making waves with a scoop that Uber used its software prowess to foil attempts by local regulators around the world trying to investigate UberX. It's a complex story you should read in full, but here's the upshot:

  • An Uber program called Greyball would serve law enforcement officers and regulators engaged in ride-hailing stings with "ghost cars" to make it harder for them to catch a ride.
  • The company determined who to target in part by analyzing user data, including customer credit cards and behavior on the app around city offices.

Why it matters: The story shows Uber's willingness to push the limits of the law in its battles with local regulators, which are more existential than the policy debates it influences in Washington.

Timing is everything: It comes after the company has been accused of fostering a sexist and toxic workplace culture and stealing intellectual property from Google — and days after CEO Travis Kalanick apologized for berating a driver for the service, an act that was caught in a damning dashcam video.

Uber responds: "This 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."

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