Thursday 9 March 2017 6:41 am

Uber bans drivers from using Greyball technology that helps them to dodge investigators

Uber has banned the use its controversial “Greyball" technology, which helps the drivers dodge undercover investigators.

The counter-intelligence programme allows the tech giant to identify undercover officials trying to expose Uber’s operations in cities where it has previously banned.

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Once identified, the software allows Uber drivers to refuse rides from the would-be sting operatives.

News of Uber's Greyball activities surfaced last weekend with the firm defending the software, though adding it was scaling back its use.

But in a blog post released overnight, Uber’s chief security officer Joe Sullivan announced a U-turn, saying he had launched an investigation into how Greyball – which was originally created to protect the firm from "violations of terms of service" and approved by Uber's legal team – had been used.

He added: “In addition, we are expressly prohibiting its use to target action by local regulators going forwards.”


In some cities that lack a legal framework for ride services, officials have worked to ticket, tow and impound Uber cars.

The software had also allowed the firm to show images of "ghost" Uber cars in an attempt to flummox authorities or to show that no cars were available.

Read more: Uber's been hiding from regulators by using secret technology – here's how

Last week, Uber security researcher and vice president of product and growth Ed Baker announced his resignation. Baker did not given any reason for stepping down and it is unclear whether his departure was in connection with the unearthing of Greyball technology.

It hasn't been a great few weeks of late for Uber. At the end of last week it lost a key part of its High Court case against Transport for London, after a High Court ruled private hire drivers will be forced to pass a written English exam.

And chief executive Travis Kalanick was forced into admitting he needed to "grow up" after a video was published showing him in a heated argument with a driver over the app's pay rates.

The billion-dollar startup is also facing serious allegations of sexism in the workplace from a former engineer.