The U.S. Department of Justice has started a criminal investigation into Uber’s use of a software tool that helped its drivers evade regional transportation regulators, 2 sources knowledgeable about with the scenario stated.
Uber has acknowledged the software, called “Greyball,” helped it recognize and prevent government officials who were attempting to clamp down on Uber in areas where its service had not yet been authorized, including Portland, Oregon.
The company restricted the use of Greyball for this purpose quickly after the New York Times exposed its presence in March, stating the program was developed to examine ride demands to prevent frauds and protect drivers. The Times report set off a barrage of unfavorable promotion for the company.
The criminal investigation might end up being a significant issue facing the business that is currently battling with a range of recent business and legal issues.
An Uber spokesman and the Justice Department refused to comment. Uber attorneys stated in letters to Portland authorities, which Portland revealed in a report last week, that the Greyball technology was used “exceedingly sparingly” in that city, prior the approval of the service there in 2015.
The nature of any possible federal criminal offense, and the likelihood of anybody being charged, is uncertain. The investigation is still in its early stages, the sources stated.
Bloomberg news service reported the presence of a federal probe recently, however did not recognize it as criminal.