File illustration picture showing the logo of car-sharing service app Uber on a smartphone next to the picture of an official German taxi sign in Frankfurt, September 15, 2014. A Frankfurt court earlier this month instituted a temporary injunction against Uber from offering car-sharing services across Germany. San Francisco-based Uber, which allows users to summon taxi-like services on their smartphones, offers two main services, Uber, its classic low-cost, limousine pick-up service, and Uberpop, a newer ride-sharing service, which connects private drivers to passengers – an established practice in Germany that nonetheless operates in a legal grey area of rules governing commercial transportation. REUTERS/Kai Pfaffenbach/Files (GERMANY – Tags: BUSINESS EMPLOYMENT CRIME LAW TRANSPORT)

A few days ago, we published a report on how Uber was using a software to identify and deny cab requests made by people who violate its terms of service.  The company has released a statement today in which it clarified its position on the matter.

In case you are unaware of Greyball, it is a special software Uber uses to identify users who could be ordering a cab in violation of the cab company’s terms of service. The company was apparently leveraging the power of technology to take upon those it thinks are violating its terms of service.

The list was said to include members of code enforcement authorities or even city officials who are trying to gain information about Uber’s operations in certain areas. The company was sidestepping them by the simply procedure of identifying and denying the requests they make through its platform. So basically, if you were a local enforcer looking to glean information about Uber — and Uber had identified you as such — you will never find a cab available to serve you.

Well, Uber’s chief security officer Joe Sullivan has posted a blog discussing the topic in detail. Here is the full update in case you are interested:

We wanted to give everyone an update on “greyballing”. This technology is used to hide the standard city app view for individual riders, enabling Uber to show that same rider a different version. It’s been used for many purposes, for example: the testing of new features by employees; marketing promotions; fraud prevention; to protect our partners from physical harm; and to deter riders using the app in violation of our terms of service.

We have started a review of the different ways this technology has been used to date. In addition, we are expressly prohibiting its use to target action by local regulators going forward. Given the way our systems are configured, it will take some time to ensure this prohibition is fully enforced. We’ve had a number of organizations reach out for information and we will be working to respond to their inquiries once we have finished our review.

The takeaway, is that the company has prohibited use of the software to target law enforcers going forward. This seems to indicate that Uber was aware of the fact that it was operating in the gray regions of the law and has rolled the system back following its discovery. The company probably doesn’t want “obstruction of duty” added to its offenses — it is going through a rough patch as it is.

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