Uber Facing Criminal Probe Over Software Used to Identify Driving Regulation Officials

by

uber app iconUber found itself in more hot water on Thursday after Reuters revealed that the ride-hailing service is facing a criminal investigation by the U.S. government.

The Department of Justice has reportedly begun an investigation over the company's use of "secret" software that allowed its drivers to operate in areas where Uber was banned or restricted.

First reported by The New York Times, the so-called "greyball" software is said to have allowed the company to identify officials seeking to prevent the service from running. It is claimed the software was used in several areas including Portland and Oregon, where the service was still waiting for approval to operate.

Transport regulation officials regularly posed as passengers in those regions where Uber had yet to obtain approval, in an effort to prove that Uber was operating illegally. The software was used to work out who was an undercover official and would attempt to block them from booking rides in the first place.

Uber has already admitted to using the software. In a letter sent to Portland transport regulators last week, the company said it used greyball "exceedingly sparingly" in the city, but had not used it since April 2015 when it received permission to operate.

Uber has also previously defended its use of the software by claiming that it helped the company limit fraud and protect its drivers from harm. The company prohibited the use of the software for identifying officials shortly after the New York Times report brought the practice to light.

The nature of any potential federal criminal violation, and the likelihood of anyone being charged, remains unclear because the investigation is still in its early stages, according to sources. However, Uber has reportedly received a subpoena from a Northern California grand jury seeking documents concerning how the software tool functioned and where it was deployed. A subpoena indicates that an official criminal investigation is underway.

Uber has come under increasing pressure on several fronts in recent months following several controversies. Concerns were first raised late last year when users complained that the app appeared to track them for days or even weeks after they last used the ride-hailing service.

Recently it emerged that Apple CEO Tim Cook threatened to pull Uber's app from the App Store in early 2015 after discovering that it was secretly "fingerprinting" iPhones that used the app. The revelation came in a New York Times article published last month that detailed the ride-hailing service's history of controversial business tactics.

Tag: Uber

Top Rated Comments

Adam Warlock Avatar
49 months ago
It's hard to think of a more underhanded, slimy company than Uber in recent memory.
Score: 29 Votes (Like | Disagree)
PilotC150 Avatar
49 months ago

Because it involved the internet, so I'm sure some enterprising dead-eyed parasite at FTC or wherever said "ah! this involves interstate commerce!" and brought an investigation.

I have never used Uber, and will never use them or any other ride sharing service, so I have no reason to defend them. I've not paid much attention to them as a result, so I've not heard much about their ethics other than rumblings here. With that said, I think its brilliant that they came up with a way to go around regulations and provide service to willing customers. Government regulations rarely if ever benefit the common citizen, rather they exist to protect cronies and increase the scope of government along with taxes and fees.

You're right. The fact that we have clean air and water doesn't benefit the common citizen at all. It's strictly to line the pockets of the politicians. :rolleyes:
Score: 15 Votes (Like | Disagree)
maflynn Avatar
49 months ago
Good, I find their tactics and lack of remorse to be so distasteful. I'm glad they're underhanded methods are coming back to haunt them
Score: 13 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Rigby Avatar
49 months ago

So, you're saying that was impossible without government intervention? My eyes can't roll that far back in my head. Ow.

Yes, I'm sure Volkswagen would have voluntarily stopped blowing high amounts of NOx into the air without government intervention. But what's a little lung cancer as long as the corporations can do as they want, right?
Score: 12 Votes (Like | Disagree)
PilotC150 Avatar
49 months ago

So, you're saying that was impossible without government intervention? My eyes can't roll that far back in my head. Ow.

Not impossible at all. But without the government regulations the big corporations wouldn't have spent the money to do it. They would have continued to dump garbage into the lakes and rivers, because it's cheaper that way.
Score: 9 Votes (Like | Disagree)
thisisnotmyname Avatar
49 months ago

It's hard to think of a more underhanded, slimy company than Uber in recent memory.

and yet I still prefer them to taxis. Says a lot about taxis. (and me I guess)
Score: 7 Votes (Like | Disagree)

Top Stories

iphone 5s black slate

Images of Unreleased iPhone 5s in Black and Slate Shared Online

Sunday January 17, 2021 9:47 am PST by
Twitter user @DongleBookPro has today shared images of a prototype iPhone 5s in an unreleased Black and Slate color. The iPhone 5s was launched in September 2013. The device featured Touch ID, a 64-bit processor, and a True Tone LED flash for the first time. Other new features included a five-element lens with an f/2.2 aperture, a 15 percent larger camera sensor, Burst Mode, and Slo-Mo...
iP12 charge airpods feature 2

Hidden iPhone 12 Hardware Feature Could Still be Unlocked

Thursday January 14, 2021 2:51 am PST by
All iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 Pro models purportedly have a hidden reverse wireless charging feature, according to an FCC filing. The feature has not yet been activated, but could yet be unlocked for an upcoming Apple accessory. The FCC filing suggests that iPhone 12 models contain the hardware for Wireless Power Transfer (WPT) to accessories: In addition to being able to be charged by a...
google maps detailed street level e1611052089473

Google Maps Gains Enhanced Street-Level Detail in Four Major Cities

Tuesday January 19, 2021 2:34 am PST by
Google Maps has quietly been updated to include significantly more detailed street-level information in a handful of key cities around the world. Upon zooming in, Google's maps for Central London, Tokyo, San Francisco, and New York now benefit from shapes and widths that match the scale of roads more accurately. Meanwhile, enhanced graphical representations of sidewalks, crosswalks,...
macbook pro flexgate

Apple Extends 13-Inch MacBook Pro Backlight Repair Program

Sunday January 17, 2021 10:31 am PST by
Apple this week extended its worldwide 13-inch MacBook Pro Display Backlight Service Program, authorizing coverage for eligible notebooks for up to five years after the original purchase date or up to three years after the start date of the program, whichever is longer. The previous cutoff was four years after the original purchase date. Apple launched the program on May 21, 2019 after...
lg wing

LG Considering Exit From Smartphone Business, Halts LCD Production for iPhone

Wednesday January 20, 2021 5:38 am PST by
LG is considering exiting the smartphone business entirely amid declining shipments and accrued losses of $4.5 billion over the past five years (via The Korea Herald). LG CEO Kwon Bong-Seok cautioned staff earlier today that the company is re-evaluating its presence in the smartphone industry: Since the competition in the global market for mobile devices is getting fiercer, it is about...
airpods max sim ejector

AirPods Max Headband Removable With Just a SIM Ejector Tool, Hinting at Interchangeable Headbands

Tuesday January 19, 2021 8:25 am PST by
It is possible to remove the headband of AirPods Max with just a standard SIM card ejector tool, hinting at the possibility of interchanging headbands to achieve a different colorway. Image via Prelook In December, MacRumors revealed the large variety of AirPods Max ear cushion color combinations when it became clear that they were magnetically attatched and available for sale separately....
macbook pro screensaver table

Some M1 Macs Affected By Fast User Switching Screensaver Bug

Monday January 18, 2021 1:57 am PST by
A growing number of user reports online suggest some of Apple's M1 Mac models are susceptible to a Fast User Switching bug that spontaneously activates the screensaver and leaves the user unable to dismiss it. In macOS Big Sur, Fast User Switching allows users to quickly switch between user accounts without having to completely log out. Based on posts in the MacRumors forums, Apple...
Top Stories 43 Feature

Top Stories: MacBook Pro, iMac, Mac Pro, and iPhone Rumors, Best of CES 2021

Saturday January 16, 2021 6:00 am PST by
This week was sure a busy one in the Apple world, with a flurry of announcements out of CES early in the week followed by a rash of Mac- and iPhone-related rumors later in the week. The new rumors this week included details on updated MacBook Pro, iMac, and Mac Pro models, as well as a few other tidbits, so make sure to read on below to get caught up! Kuo: New MacBook Pro Models to...
shot on iphone 12 apple

Apple Highlights Photos Shot by iPhone 12 Users: Portraits, Cityscapes, and More

Tuesday January 19, 2021 6:05 am PST by
Apple today shared a gallery of photos shot by customers using the iPhone 12 mini, iPhone 12, iPhone 12 Pro, and iPhone 12 Pro Max, with scenes including cityscapes, landscapes, portraits of people, and more at day and night. Shot on iPhone 12 Pro Max by "NKCHU" in China (top) and shot on iPhone 12 Pro Max by Rohit Vohra in India (bottom) iPhone 12 mini and iPhone 12 models have a dual camera ...
Apple and Hyundai feature

Apple Car Production Again Linked to Kia Motor's US Plant in Georgia

Tuesday January 19, 2021 4:19 am PST by
Hyundai intends to transition the company's Apple Car involvement to its Kia brand as part of an internal arrangement that could see production move to the U.S., according to a new report today. On Sunday, Korea IT News reported that Apple and Hyundai are seeking a partnership agreement for the upcoming Apple Car by March, and that the electric vehicles could be made at a Georgia factory...