(Reuters) - Ride hailing company Uber Technologies Inc [UBER.UL] has for years used a secret tool to deceive the authorities in markets where its service faced resistance by law enforcement or was banned, the New York Times reported, citing sources.
An Uber tool called Greyball used data collected from the Uber app and other methods to find and circumvent officials, the NYT reported on Friday. http://nyti.ms/2mmTS88
Asked about the existence of Greyball, Uber said in an email, "This program denies ride requests to fraudulent users who are violating our terms of service — whether that's people aiming to physically harm drivers, competitors looking to disrupt our operations, or opponents who collude with officials on secret 'stings' meant to entrap drivers."
A current Uber employee familiar with the program confirmed to Reuters that Uber had used antifraud techniques to hunt for suspected undercover law enforcement and regulators. The person said Greyball had not been used in the United States in more than a year.
The New York Times said Uber used the methods to evade authorities in cities including Boston, Paris and Las Vegas, and in countries like Australia, China, Italy and South Korea.
Greyball, which began as early as 2014, was part of a program called "Violation of terms of service" (VTOS), aimed at finding people the ride-hailing company thought were using the app improperly, the newspaper reported.
Greyball and the broader VTOS program were described by four current and former Uber employees, who also provided documents, the NYT said.
(Reporting by Laharee Chatterjee in Bengaluru; Editing by Anil D'Silva)