Uber Working Towards Mending Relationship With Regulators After ‘Greyballing’ Scandal

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Mar 9, 2017
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Uber recently came under controversy radar for using “Greyballing” technology. The use of Greyballing technology hides the normal city app view for particular users. The popular cab service provider said on Wednesday that it would restrict its employees from using Greyballing technology to confuse regulators.

The company now seems to be working on improving the relationship with the regulators as there has been a lot of pressure on Uber for correcting its business practices and aggressive strategies. In a statement about Greballing tech, Uber said that it would be “expressly prohibiting its use”. However, it could take some time for the wider impact of the ban.

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A few days ago, a report by the New York Times indicated that Uber is using technology to recognize and avoid officials to block its drivers from being fined or subpoenaed in cities such as Portland and Oregon. This practice is against the company’s own principles, which is why authorities started pressurizing Uber to correct its ways. With the help of Greyballing technology, Uber used to display fictitious drivers on the app interface or show no rides in the area to mask them from the authorities and pertaining actions.

To clear the air, Uber published a blog post on Wednesday, which described other uses of the Greyballing technology. In the post, company’s chief security officer Joe Sullivan wrote that Greyballing is also used for other purposes such as driver safety, anti-fraud practices, and more.

Here’s the complete post by Joe Sullivan:

We wanted to give everyone an update on “Greyballing”. This technology is used to hide the standard city app view for individual riders, enabling Uber to show that same rider a different version. It’s been used for many purposes, for example: the testing of new features by employees; marketing promotions; fraud prevention; to protect our partners from physical harm; and to deter riders using the app in violation of our terms of service.

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. Given the way our systems are configured, it will take some time to ensure this prohibition is fully enforced. We’ve had some organisations reach out for information, and we will be working to respond to their inquiries once we have finished our review.

Uber’s attempts to rebuild its relationship with regulators is followed by a series of mishappenings that fired user backlash and also boosted investor concern. Also, a former Uber employee posted a blog post last month, which mentioned the disturbing sexual harassment instances in the company. It also indicated that such cases were common in the workplace and any internal committee never prosecuted the perpetrators. After the blog post had gone viral, Uber urged an internal investigation.

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It remains to be seen if Uber successfully mends its image in front of the regulators.

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