Uber drops cop-evading 'Greyball' algorithm

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Uber drops cop-evading 'Greyball' algorithm

Pledges to cease use of big data tool.

Uber has promised to stop using its 'Greyball' tool to dodge police, after it was revealed that the company was using big data to fool regulators with dummy vehicles.

The tool uses information such as credit card data, social media profiles, and geolocation tags to identify law enforcement officials, who would then be presented with a fake version of the app.

Bookings would be picked up by non-existent virtual cars and if a real driver picked one up by accident, the booking would be automatically cancelled.

The issue was exposed in a New York Times report, which also revealed that 'Greyball' was used to avoid regulators and police in cities where Uber was restricted or outright banned, like Australia.

According to the company, Greyballing has other applications.

"It's been used for many purposes," Uber CSO Joe Sullivan wrote in a blog post.

"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."

However, Sullivan also pledged to address concerns that Uber is using its technical tools to skirt the law.

"We have started a review of the different ways this technology has been used to date," he said. "In addition, we are expressly prohibiting its use to target action by local regulators going forward."

These revelations are just the latest in what has proven to be a scandal-ridden year for the ride-sharing company. It was criticised heavily for its role in US President Donald Trump's travel ban, has faced allegations of endemic sexism and discrimination, and is in the middle of fighting off a lawsuit from self-driving car firm Waymo.

Uber's CEO Travis Kalanick was also caught on film having an argument with one of the company's drivers, after which he was forced to issue a public apology. The firm is also currently on the hunt for a COO to help it "write the next chapter".

This article originally appeared at itpro.co.uk

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