Uber Foils Regulators with Technology Uber Foils Regulators with Technology

Uber Foils Regulators with Technology

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Surprise, Surprise! Uber is using technology to defeat attempts by regulators to shut down the taxi hailing service around the world. It was revealed that Uber is using software called Greyball to identify and prevent regulators from booking rides. Although Uber has often had disagreements with regulators in many cities around the world, the use of software presents an impressive escalation by the company in its battle with regulators.

Uber App


Uber has not confirmed the existence of Greyball or whether it actively tries to thwart regulators. However, the New York Times has confirmed the existence of Greyball with four former and current employees of Uber.

Greyball works by collecting the location data used to order a ride and comparing it against a database of government offices. It also cross-references the credit card information to identify whether the person hailing a ride has a connection to law enforcement or a government agency.

Once the software identifies suspected government agents, they would then be directed to download an alternative version of the Uber app showing plenty of imaginary cabs that are impossible to book. If by chance the user manages to order a real Uber ride through the app successfully, they software would automatically cancel the booking.

Frequently, Uber used Greyball to gain early entry into cities where they have had disagreements with regulators, who are trying to ensure that the company is compliant with local laws and regulations. Regulators who have been thwarted by Greyball have maintained that its use is illegal.

The Battle Rages On

While it is easy to have some sympathy for regulators who say they are merely trying to enforce local regulations, you do have to take some pleasure in Uber running rings around them, since quite often the battle with Uber is a political one. The fact that a company known for innovation and cutting edge technology is using its core strengths and competencies to defeat regulators using outdated ideas and methods readily makes the situation comical. Perhaps the regulators should get on board with innovation and modify their own regulations and guidelines to keep in touch with an ever-changing world.

Source: BBC

4.8 / 5 - (5 votes)

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  • Good for Uber. Just because others can’t tolerate disruptive technology doesn’t mean it should be locked away.

  • If regulators are prepared to behave in a dodgy manner, they should not be surprised if companies do the same, personally I think both actions are fairly dodgy.

  • good for them..!!

  • Ugh. Something else coming out. When will companies learn? All information comes out whatever devious thing you’re doing. No wonder the law sees companies as “a person” for tax and other reasons…people run it just like they run themselves. Oh well. Do unto others.

  • Uber is a crappy company run by a guy who doesn’t even know how to treat his employees. I would never use them.

  • I don’t have a problem with this practice. Politicians/regulators get $$ from taxi unions/companies to try to regulate Uber out of existence. It is about money not safety. Let the riders decide.

  • Wow this is really interesting, I didn’t know there was such a tool/technology.
    Hopefully Uber will be able to make peace with regulators and have stable business going forward.

  • Love stuff like this! Go Uber/Lyft!

  • Prashant Gangwal says:

    UBER needs to get its act together!

  • I have no problem with this. Sometimes there needs to be some fuzzy regulatory work done in order for a product to make it’s way out of the bureaucratic red tape that has become America. Good on you, Uber. I will continue to use Uber.

  • No surprises here. Ive always preferred Lyft anyways.

  • With all of the problems Uber has been having, you have to think they may not last much longer in their present form. I’ve been using Lyft more and more as an alternative. They don’t quite have as much coverage or as many drivers as Uber, but it’s pretty reliable and doesn’t have any of the moral issues to wit.

    • Kevin Davis says:

      I think you are right. Uber has been burning a lot of bridges and sooner and later it will catch up to them.

  • Kevin Davis says:

    I think both sides work need to work out the differences. Uber or some other rideshare is the future.

  • I believe they recently said they will stop using Greyball going ahead

  • Uber seems so sketchy these days, yet it’s also the way to get rides more affordable.

  • Bertrand Say says:

    Even if this is legal, it sounds very shady.

  • It sounds so simple…people giving other people rides. But it turns out to be a very dirty and political business.

  • ADAM PARSONS says:

    It’s amazing the technology out there these days. My gut feeling is if it’s known that a major company is using such software to get round being caught, it’s only a matter of time before they will get Caught!

  • Uber has actually confirmed the existence of Greyball – http://www.firstpost.com/business/uber-confirms-it-used-secret-tool-greyball-for-years-to-deceive-authorities-in-banned-areas-3314980.html

    They have also openly said they will ask all their operators to stop using it.

    • Tyese Cooper says:

      Im not in support of Uber being shady…just that it protects its business so WE can enjoy the benefits of its convenience. Sounds like Im being selfish uh? Yep, thats exactly why Uber exists in the first place lol.

  • Uber may be forced to use Greyball where the authorities are not cooperating with their business model or giving them more problems. Either way, there are always two sides to a story.

    • Yes, I agree. Regulators can only follow the law though, it’s the politicians that need to have the strength to stand up to vested interests.

  • This definitely makes me think twice about using uber. Dirty tricks to get around regulations is taking it to extreme. Compromising with local officials is part of business. Deceitful practices can turn public opinion on you.

  • Yet another hit to the company’s reputation. I’m guessing they are trying to ride out all the bad press before going public.

  • I have now found in many instances in New York City that Uber has become more expensive than regular yellow taxis.

  • The_Bouncer says:

    Like the early days of the internet, Uber is now having it’s “Wild West” period, before governments work out how to regulate and police it.

  • Alice Chen says:

    I see why they would do this, but doesn’t this just make it more sketchy? I think this is something that will come back to bite Uber