I swear someone opened Pandora’s Box at Uber right now. Kalanick must feel like he is walking around in a unavoidable minefield. From the #DeleteUber campaigns, The Sexual harassment claims that have come up to Execs leaving the company. Even more recently we heard news of the crashes that put a halt to the autonomous driving project. Earlier this month among all the hullabaloo there was the mention of Uber’s “Greyball” Software. This was the software that they used to avoid authorities in illegal operation areas. This has just added to all the PR nightmares going on at Uber. There are a lot of seemingly grey areas with the issue but looking at it my mind has been thinking of one thing. Would Uber’s seemingly criminal Greyball software be a bigger hit than the actual Uber app?
The concept itself is what I consider to be genius. The mere fact that it has been around for about three years only further proves how brilliant it is! The Greyball software could have a lot of areas of applicability on both the legal and illegal side. The criminality of the Greyball software is something that has been debated since the New York times spoke of it. Although Uber gave an explanation that is acceptable in part most agree that it’s a wait and see game.
The Greyball software made sure that Uber could continue operations in locations where it was still illegal. Any law enforcers in affected areas who would try to hail Uber cabs would only see ghost cabs. This meant that sting operations and tickets were avoided by Uber and their drivers. So typically, they could not catch Uber in the act. How it knew this people where officials is shown below:
“Greyball used geolocation data, credit card information, social media accounts and other data points to identify individuals they suspected of working for city agencies to carry out the sting operations, according to the Times. It was used in Portland, Oregon, Philadelphia, Boston, and Las Vegas, as well as France, Australia, China, South Korea and Italy.
In short it used sign up information, Social media information and stalked the locations where these accounts spent most of their time. That meant also noting where the Uber app was opened from and the times. So now it could tell if your working hours are spent in a municipal or competitor building in building and you’d end up on their Greyball list.
Moralists and a good number of people in the corporate governance space will speak of how the use of this software is an ill. In some cases it has even been suggested that this be treated as “intentional obstruction of justice” which sounds like a big deal. So now depending on how the affected authorities decide to act, Uber could be in even more trouble.
Looking at Greyball itself, I feel it could be applied in a lot of areas . Any software with the ability to go through that much user information is admirable. What is worrying becomes the level of freedom that different organisations have with the information we supply upon registration.
Verdict on the Greyball Software
At some point we all saw Uber as the underdog trying to provide a transportation solution. The bad guy at that point where all the government authorities that were denying Uber entry into their territories. Denying citizens a chance to earn money and a chance to get easier and cheaper transport. Unfortunately when the method they used to evade authorities comes chaperoned by scandal it becomes difficult to Justify their actions.
If you are wondering how on earth Uber justified Greyball, read below:
“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.”
Good Luck Uber!