Saturday, March 04, 2017

Uber Using 'Secret Program' Greyball To Profile Passengers And Hide From Regulators

Uber has been using a secret program to prevent undercover regulators from shutting down the taxi-hailing service in cities around the world.

Greyball is part of a program called VTOS, short for “violation of terms of service,” which Uber created to root out people it thought were using or targeting its service improperly. The program, including Greyball, began as early as 2014 and remains in use, predominantly outside the United States. Greyball was approved by Uber’s legal team.

Greyball and the VTOS program were described to The New York Times by four current and former Uber employees, who also provided documents. The four spoke on the condition of anonymity because the tools and their use are confidential and because of fear of retaliation by Uber.

The software, called Greyball, was developed to help protect the company from "violations of terms of service".

But data collected through Uber's phone app was also used to identify officials monitoring its drivers.

Uber has acknowledged that Greyball has been used in multiple countries, the New York Times reports.

The tool has enabled the company to monitor users' habits.

But it also identified regulators posing as ordinary passengers while investigating whether Uber was breaking local laws governing taxis.

The software works by collecting geolocation data and credit card information to determine whether the user is linked to an institution or law enforcement authority.

A "fake" version of the app would then allow those individuals suspected of attempting to entrap drivers to hail a cab, only to have their booking cancelled.

We know that Uber use Greyball program to profile against enforcement, but they also allegedly using it to discriminated against disabled people and shut them out of the system. 

When this fellow used the Uber app, drivers accept then cancel costing him £5 a pop and he still ends up not getting a car. 

Same with wheelchair passengers 

It's disgusting that this company is not only discriminating against disabled passengers, but their drivers are profiting immorally from cancellations. 

Many Uber drivers use the cancellation policy because it can be more profitable to cancel than actually do the job. This process must be stopped by TfL as it is no more than theft from customers. 

Not one Licensed Taxi service will charge passengers if the drive cancels 

The existence of the Greyball program was revealed in an article published in the New York Times on Friday, which attributed the information to four current and former Uber employees, who were not named.

"This program denies ride requests to fraudulent users who are violating our terms of service," Uber said in a statement.

"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," it added.

It comes in the same week that the chief executive of Uber, Travis Kalanick, was forced to apologise after a video emerged of him swearing at one of the company's drivers. Just two weeks earlier he apologised for "abhorrent" sexism at the company.


>Click Here for story<

To lose 1 senior Vice President in a week is never good. To lose two is very careless.

Add to the growing woes captured on this thread just this week.

But there's more ... check out this:

>The list of all the other crap - JUST - from this week can be found here.<

Also in the Times, news that passengers in Uber cars only pay 41% of the real cost of their ride, the remaining 59% covered by investors cash. 

This is known as predator pricing and is supposed to be illegal. But legality hasn't stopped Uber in any form in the past 5 years, since they were first licensed by TfLTPH under John Mason's directorship.

Unlicensed, unregulated:
Uber used covert methods to operate in cities like Boston, Las Vegas, Portland, and even Paris, France, without the authorities or city officials finding out. When an officer tried to request an Uber, the app would display “ghost” cars, which would never pick them up. In some cases, authorities will not see any cars on the app at all.

In 2014, the ride-hailing service began operating in Portland without the city's permission, violating the city’s Private For-Hire Transportation Regulations and Administrative Rules.

Erich England, a code enforcement inspector in Portland, Oregon, posed as a customer, trying to catch a ride in order to build a case against the company. England and city officials recorded themselves requesting multiple rides through the app, each of which was quickly canceled.

Unknown to England, he was already tagged by Uber’s software, and all of the rides he saw were fake.

Three days after launching, Uber was sued by the city for operating without a permit, and the company agreed to suspend its operations in Portland for a period.

Uber claims this software was developed to protect its drivers from code enforcers that are working with taxi interests.

“This program denies ride requests to 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, according to the New York Times.

The company also allegedly watched people that were opening and closing the app near government offices, searched through users’ social media profiles and credit card information, and used several other indicators to single out any police officers or individuals that might be associated with government agencies.

Those individuals were then “Greyballed,” or blocked from accessing the real app.

Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler said he is still “very concerned that Uber may have purposefully worked to thwart the city’s job to protect the public,” according to a statement released on Friday after the New York Times report.

At least 50 Uber employees knew about the existence of Greyball, which was approved by their legal team, according to the report.

Uber has also been in legal battles over sexual harassment charges and allegedly stealing intellectual property from Google parent company Alphabet's self-driving car company, Waymo.