When Uber tampered with its app to evade the police

If there was one phenomenon that Uber wanted to avoid more than anything else, in the mid-2010s, it was to see its drivers arrested by the police. It is bad for the image and for business: it is expensive and discourages drivers from offering their services. In many countries where all or part of Uber’s services have been deemed illegal, a technology has flourished among law enforcement: pretending to be a customer, requesting a ride, and greeting the driver upon arrival. In response, the company has developed specific internal procedures and tools that are supposed to track law enforcement personnel and offer them a modified version of the app so they can’t book a flight.

These methods are internally referred to as Grayballdetected by a survey The New York Times in 2017. “We stopped using these tools in 2017 when Dara Khosrowshahi became CEO and, as we have said many times, they should never have been used. We have cooperated with all investigations into the use of these tools. As far as we know, they are all closed or no longer active, without finding for any offences.Uber, answered a question by the “Uber Files” journalists.

The Uber files are an international investigation

“Uber Files” is an investigation based on thousands of internal Uber documents sent to the British Daily by an anonymous source Watchmanand forwarded it to the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) and 42 media partners, including the scientist.

Emails, presentations, meeting minutes… These 124,000 documents, dating from 2013 to 2017, offer a rare opportunity to delve into the mysteries of a startup that at the time was seeking to establish itself in cities around the world despite from the organizational context. They detail how Uber, in France as elsewhere, has used all its lobbying tricks to try to change the law in its favour.

The Uber Files also reveal how the Californian group, determined to assert itself de facto and, if necessary, by operating illegally, has carried out deliberate practices that manipulate the boundaries of the law, or that may amount to judicial obstruction of investigations was her subject.

Find all our articles from the “Uber Files” survey

investigating in Globalism And its partners, however, makes it possible to document the use of this system in new countries. It also shows how preponderant and familiar this tool is in Uber’s arsenal against the authorities.

This is the case, for example, in Belgium, where local teams have mastered their techniques so well that they presented them during an internal seminar. Step one: Identify suspicious users. The first step is to comb through all the missions that led to the arrest and transcription of a driver “Driver, customer, place of departure, place of arrival, date and time of customer check-in” in order to find “Recurring patterns”. Brussels teams have developed a specific algorithm to assess the risks that drivers will have to deal with law enforcement representatives.

Finally, check out all Uber users who have opened the app near the police station. Once in formations ” in danger “ After they’re spotted, step two begins: making sure they can’t order vehicles. If they are informed of the arrests, Uber teams can also mark a geographic area where it becomes impossible to order a car.

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