An investigation by the city of Portland, Oregon, has discovered that Uber used a software tool to purposefully evade 16 government officials whose task it was to regulate the ride-services company, city authorities stated on Thursday.
When Uber started running in Portland in December 2014, it did not have any permits, so it utilized a software application tool it had developed called Greyball to obstruct regulators from booking rides. Uber stopped using such software after it got approval to run its service in Portland in April 2015.
The city enforced no fines or other charges but transportation officials have suggested that the city increase enforcement efforts.
“We have made sure that no attempts to evade regulators or deny service to riders” will be permitted in the future, Portland City Commissioner Dan Saltzman stated.
Portland introduced its investigation following the New York Times report from March that Uber used Greyball to evade government officials in locations where its service had not yet been authorized, such as Portland, Boston, Paris and Las Vegas, and in nations such as Australia, China, Italy and South Korea.
Greyball allowed the ride hailing services company to disregard or cancel ride requests from locations near enforcement firms and from accounts with credit cards believed to come from government workers. The tool likewise allowed Uber to reveal that no vehicles were avilable.
Portland discovered that when Uber began operating in the city in December 2014, the company used Greyball to block 17 rider accounts, 16 of these came from government officials, and deny 29 ride demands by city transportation enforcement officers.
“In using Greyball, Uber has sullied its own track record,” the Portland Bureau of Transportation wrote.
A spokesperson for Uber stated the company was “pleased the investigation was closed” and “will continue operating in partnership with the City of Portland.”