Uber Faces Criminal Probe Over 'Greyball' Scheme

Company used software to avoid regulators
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted May 5, 2017 1:03 AM CDT
A self-driving Uber sits ready to take journalists for a ride during a media preview in Pittsburgh last year.   (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar, File)

(Newser) – Another big setback for Uber: The Justice Department is in the early stages of a criminal investigation of the company over the "Greyball" program it used to avoid regulators as it expanded its service across America, sources tell Reuters and the Wall Street Journal. Users "greyballed" by the software were shown a fake version of the Uber app and found themselves unable to get rides. Uber used it in cities such as Portland, Ore., to avoid sting operations while the service was banned there. Uber, which stopped using Greyball after a New York Times report exposed it, claims the software was mostly used to test new features and to protect drivers.

Sources say that to help Uber drivers avoid regulators, the system tried to identify government workers and law enforcement officers by looking for government-issued credit cards, checking social media profiles, and putting a "geofence" around government buildings, Gizmodo reports. According to Reuters' sources, the company has already received a subpoena from a grand jury in Northern California seeking records related to its use of the software. (A new law has forced Uber to cease operations in Denmark.)

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