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Uber has acknowledged the use of a secret software program to steer drivers away from trouble, including sting operations by local authorities to catch law-breakers.In the latest in a streak of damaging news for the ridesharing giant, Uber came forward about its greyball software recently.
According to an Uber statement, the tool was used in cities where it was not banned from operating, and the main intent was to protect drivers from disruption by competitors using the smartphone application to interfere instead of summon legitimate rides.
Uber said the program was used in locations where drivers feared for their safety, and rarely to avoid law enforcement.
Greyball was used in several countries, cited interviews with current and former employees whose names were cloaked.
The report said Greyball was part of a part of a broader program created to reveal people trying to us Uber in violation of terms of service and had the blessing of the company’s legal team.
According to the report, the program raised ethical and potential concerns, and had been a closely guarded secret in Uber’s toolbox as it expanded around the world, clashing with regulators and traditional taxi groups.
The Greyball disclosure comes as accusations of sexism, cut-throat management, and a toxic work environment have Uber trying to pull its image out of a skid as competition revs in the on-demand ride market.
Uber is one of the largest investor-backed startups with a valuation estimated at $68 billion, and has operations in dozens of countries and hundreds of cities, even as it battles regulators and an established taxi industry.