The transportation network giant, Uber, is facing yet another controversy for the past few months: criminal probe over software used to evade authorities.
The Justice Department of the Unites States has begun a criminal investigation on the account of the company’s usage of a software application that helped the drivers to evade local transportation regulations in Uber-restricted cities.
The ride-sharing app has used the software known as “Greyball,” which helped to identify and avoid government officials who were trying to suppress Uber in places where this service has not yet been approved such as Portland, Oregon.
Right after the New York Times has exposed the existence of the Greyball software, Uber banned the use for this purpose and stated that the program was created to check ride requests to safeguard drivers and prevent fraud.
The way that this software worked is by using a few procedures—getting credit card information, performing social media searches and geolocation, and recognizing government-issued devices to determine potential authorities in restricted cities. The users that are a potential threat would see a “ghost” version of the Uber app, with phantom vehicles that were getting canceled in order to avoid detection.
In the end, the company acknowledged the use of Greyball, and even though it’s not being used in the U.S., it is still operated by Uber in foreign markets.
Portland transportation officials reported that the company used the aforementioned software tools in December 2014, to avoid 16 Portland Bureau of Transportation officials and deny them many rides through the Uber app.
Officials from the city of Portland stated that this behavior was not repeated when the company formally entered the market in 2015 in April.
As it was stated by Uber, the reason why they were operating with the conflicting software was because they were deeply concerned that their drivers would be penalized financially for their driving.
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