Uber has for years engaged in a worldwide program to deceive the authorities in markets where its low-cost ride-hailing service was being resisted by law enforcement or, in some instances, had been outright banned.
The program, involving a tool called Greyball, uses data collected from the Uber app and other techniques to identify and circumvent officials. Uber used these methods to evade the authorities in cities such as Boston, Paris and Las Vegas, and in countries like Australia, China, Italy and South Korea.
If users were identified as being connected to law enforcement, Uber Greyballed them by tagging them with a small piece of code that read “Greyball” followed by a string of numbers.
When someone tagged this way called a car, Uber could scramble a set of ghost cars inside a fake version of the app for that person to see, or show that no cars were available.
Intentionally obstructing local authorities from using their service probably isn’t illegal, but it isn’t something you would have to do if you were proud of your product and thought it was defensible in a court of law.
Could you imagine if Apple checked if users were government agents and shut off their laptop or desktop computers? Not that our government would worry, the president only uses devices that are designed in Korea.