Uber finally addressed its latest controversy — but don’t expect it to offer any apologies.
The New York Times last week reported Uber’s use of Greyball, an internal tool meant to determine if the rider was actually a government investigator. If they were flagged, the targeted user saw a different version of the apps that would show fake cars and cancel ride requests. Uber neither confirmed nor denied the claims.
Uber’s Chief Security Officer, Joe Sullivan, finally addressed the Greyball controversy last night in a blog post.
Sullivan steered clear of the worst of the controversy in the short statement, instead touting Greyball’s other, more palatable uses. He said the feature is meant to provide a platform for employees to test new features, marketing promotions, fraud prevention, driver protection, and of course, keeping riders within Uber’s terms of service.
He did admit, however, that Uber launched an internal review of Greyball and how it has been used thus far. He said the company is hereby “expressly prohibiting its use to target action by local regulators going forward.”
Uber is taking a positive step forward by acknowledging and ending Greyball abuse — but Sullivan immediately offered a caveat, as he claimed Uber’s complicated system structure means clamping down on the shady targeting “will take some time to ensure this prohibition is fully enforced.” We can’t clarify exactly what that could mean, because the company isn’t offering any answers until it has finished the review.
As usual, Uber offered little remorse for its potentially sketchy dealings. Hopefully, the review leads to better internal practices — but with the company’s track record, we’re not so optimistic.