Uber uses a tool known as Greyball to work on the identity requests certain users make and deny service to them, according to a report.
This software, renamed later as violation of terms of service the VTOS program, employs data analysis from collected information by Uber’s app to identify people violating the terms of service agreement of Uber and block any riders from hailing rides that fall into this category.
That includes, says the report, code enforcement officials and city official that are attempting to glean data about Uber offering its services where it is prohibited at this time.
The reports says that the VTOS program of Uber, briefly called Greyball, started during 2014 and has been signed off on by the legal team at Uber.
Uber released a statement relative to the VTOS program that said the program denies requests for rides to those users who violate its terms of service, whether that is people looking to inflect physical harm to its drivers, competitors wanting to disrupt operations or those against the company that collude with area officials on stings that are meant to entrap the driver.
Uber maintains the program is for the most part intended to protect its drivers, from code enforcers that work in concert with those interested in the wellbeing of the taxi industry.
Uber drivers at times are assaulted due to the sting operations as they are called. However, the use of Greyball surfaced because of information that was supplied to the New York Times by four Uber sources.
Those four include two employees currently with Uber who had been uncomfortable with the use of the secret software.
Some of the reported techniques used by the ride-hailing company included building a perimeter that is virtual around the building and facilities in cities that were monitored for app use.
This report said that up to 60 employees at Uber knew of the existence of Greyball including the company’s general counsel and Ryan Graves the Vice President of Global Operations.
VTOS operates even today, though the focus is on identifying people working for competitors, opposition to private industry amongst others.
During the launch in Portland, Oregon of Uber, law enforcement had been instructed to try to hail the Ubers and then bust their drivers, since the service violated the local regulations related to transportation.