Uber admits ‘greyballing’ app exists, pledges not to use it on regulators

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 09 March, 2017, 5:21pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 09 March, 2017, 5:22pm

Uber has admitted in a blog post that it has a special version of its app that hides the regular city view from users and shows them an altered view instead. It has pledged not to show this version of app to regulators who are trying to investigate Uber.

The existence of this app, called “Greyball” within the company, was first revealed in a report in the New York Times last Friday. According to that report, Uber used the Greyball app to target regulators in cities where Uber was banned or restricted, such as Portland, Oregon. Those regulators attempted in some cases to order Uber cars to prove they were operating illegally. The Greyball app showed cars that didn’t actually exist, and real drivers who offered rides quickly cancelled, according to the Times.

At the time, Uber told the Times that the app was used against riders who were violating its terms of service, “opponents who collude with officials on secret ‘stings’ meant to entrap drivers.”

Wednesday’s statement from Uber says the app “has 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.” It continues, “we are expressly prohibiting its use to target action by local regulators going forward.”