Uber Admits Its “Greyball” Software is Still Being Used

Portland City Hall is investigating when and where the regulator-evading software was used in Portland.

An Uber driver in 2014. (Christopher Onstott)

The ride-hailing giant Uber today conceded that the company is still using the "Greyball" software used to evade Portland regulators in 2014.

That admission is likely to add fuel to Portland City Hall's investigation of potential criminal or civil violations by Uber.

Related: Portland City Hall, once in thrall to Uber, is ready for a fight (and a criminal investigation).

Last week, The New York Times revealed that when Uber operated illegally in 2014, it used a software called "Greyball" to evade a city crackdown. The app blocked suspected city inspectors, then filled the screens of inspectors' smartphones with fake rides while Uber drivers escaped undetected.

City officials launched an investigation this week, demanding to know if use of the software continued after the city entered into contracts with Uber in 2015. They also want to know who it was used to evade: inspectors or unwanted customers.

Today, Uber's chief security officer, Joe Sullivan, issued a statement saying Uber was banning its drivers from using "Greyball" any longer.

"We have started a review of the different ways this technology has been used to date," Sullivan said. "In addition, we are expressly prohibiting its use to target action by local regulators going forward. Given the way our systems are configured, it will take some time to ensure this prohibition is fully enforced."

The statement offers some direction to Portland transportation officials, but doesn't specify where or how drivers have used the software since 2014.

Here's Sullivan's full statement:

Willamette Week’s reporting has concrete impacts that change laws, force action from civic leaders, and drive compromised politicians from public office. Support WW's journalism today.