Uber’s Greyball under scrutiny for blocking government stings

Uber Technologies Inc

An Uber Technologies Inc. program used to counteract government officials attempting to conduct “sting” operations is drawing scrutiny amid a flurry of scandals plaguing the ride-hailing company.

Uber said the effort is meant to enforce violations of its terms of service agreement that customers accept when they sign up to use the app. The company said its prevention program, known as Violation of Terms of Service or Greyball, can be used to block officials.

“This program denies ride requests to fraudulent users who are violating our terms of service—whether that’s people aiming to physically harm drivers, competitors looking to disrupt our operations, or opponents who collude with officials on secret ‘stings’ meant to entrap drivers,” Uber said in a statement.

The tool allows the San Francisco-based company to show enforcement officers worldwide a fake version of its application in an effort to make it more difficult for authorities to apprehend potentially lawbreaking Uber drivers, according to the New York Times, which reported on Greyball earlier Friday.

The program has been in place for years. Bloomberg Businessweek reported in 2015 on Uber’s contentious battle with officials in Portland, including that the company turned off the accounts of city staff during a sting operation.

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